Mutual aid: a factor of evolution - Peter Kropotkin

Animals cooperating

Russian anarchist Peter Kropotkin's massively influential work on mutual aid and co-operation as a factor in evolution, written in 1902.

Submitted by libcom on January 31, 2006

Text taken from the Anarchy Archives



12 years 3 months ago

In reply to by

Submitted by Steven. on February 22, 2012

Humans are "naturally nice" argues new research:

Biological research is increasingly debunking the view of humanity as competitive, aggressive and brutish.

"Humans have a lot of pro-social tendencies," Frans de Waal, a biologist at Emory University in Atlanta, told the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science on Monday.

New research on higher animals from primates and elephants to mice shows there is a biological basis for behavior such as co-operation, said de Waal, author of The Age of Empathy: Nature's Lessons for a Kinder Society.

Until just 12 years ago, the common view among scientists was that humans were "nasty" at the core but had developed a veneer of morality - albeit a thin one, de Waal told scientists and journalists from some 50 countries at the conference in Vancouver, Canada.

But human children - and most higher animals - are "moral" in a scientific sense, because they need to co-operate with each other to reproduce and pass on their genes, he said.

Research has disproved the view, dominant since the 19th century, typical of biologist Thomas Henry Huxley's argument that morality is absent in nature and something created by humans, said de Waal.

And common assumptions that the harsh view was promoted by Charles Darwin, the so-called father of evolution, are also wrong, he said


12 years 3 months ago

In reply to by

Submitted by Choccy on February 22, 2012

De Waal has beeing arguing along those lines for years, much of his work has been on cooperative/pro-social behaviour. He was always critical of the notion of 'selfish genes' and particularly objected to that loaded metaphor.
TRUE FACT I presented at the same evolution conference as him in NY a few years ago!


12 years 3 months ago

In reply to by

Submitted by baboon on February 23, 2012

I like the defence of Darwin. His legacy has been abused to death by the bourgeoisie solely because his (and Alfred Russel Wallace, his mate, cannot be left out of their massive achievement) analyses completely undermined the fundamentals of bourgeois ideology - as it still does today. Both were very clear on the importance of the positive animal instincts in the development of humanity (as was Marx).


11 years 5 months ago

In reply to by

Submitted by Steven. on December 10, 2012

I've changed the picture accompanying this text. People think it's better?


11 years 5 months ago

In reply to by

Submitted by petey on December 10, 2012

Mr. Jolly

10 years 4 months ago

In reply to by

Submitted by Mr. Jolly on January 28, 2014

Good essay by Stephen Jay Gould about Kropotkin.

Kropotkin Was No Crackpot

Think this is well worth remembering,

"Nature is not intrinsically anything that can offer comfort or solace in human terms – if only because our species is such an insignificant latecomer in a world not constructed for us. So much the better. "


Submitted by libcom on January 31, 2006

Two aspects of animal life impressed me most during the

journeys which I made in my youth in Eastern Siberia and Northern

Manchuria. One of them was the extreme severity of the struggle

for existence which most species of animals have to carry on

against an inclement Nature; the enormous destruction of life

which periodically results from natural agencies; and the

consequent paucity of life over the vast territory which fell

under my observation. And the other was, that even in those few

spots where animal life teemed in abundance, I failed to find --

although I was eagerly looking for it -- that bitter struggle for

the means of existence, among animals belonging to the same

species, which was considered by most Darwinists (though not

always by Darwin himself) as the dominant characteristic of

struggle for life, and the main factor of evolution.

The terrible snow-storms which sweep over the northern

portion of Eurasia in the later part of the winter, and the

glazed frost that often follows them; the frosts and the

snow-storms which return every year in the second half of May,

when the trees are already in full blossom and insect life swarms

everywhere; the early frosts and, occasionally, the heavy

snowfalls in July and August, which suddenly destroy myriads of

insects, as well as the second broods of the birds in the

prairies; the torrential rains, due to the monsoons, which fall

in more temperate regions in August and September -- resulting in

inundations on a scale which is only known in America and in

Eastern Asia, and swamping, on the plateaus, areas as wide as

European States; and finally, the heavy snowfalls, early in

October, which eventually render a territory as large as France

and Germany, absolutely impracticable for ruminants, and destroy

them by the thousand -- these were the conditions under which I

saw animal life struggling in Northern Asia. They made me realize

at an early date the overwhelming importance in Nature of what

Darwin described as "the natural checks to over-multiplication,"

in comparison to the struggle between individuals of the same

species for the means of subsistence, which may go on here and

there, to some limited extent, but never attains the importance

of the former. Paucity of life, under-population -- not

over-population -- being the distinctive feature of that immense

part of the globe which we name Northern Asia, I conceived since

then serious doubts -- which subsequent study has only confirmed

-- as to the reality of that fearful competition for food and

life within each species, which was an article of faith with most

Darwinists, and, consequently, as to the dominant part which this

sort of competition was supposed to play in the evolution of new


On the other hand, wherever I saw animal life in abundance,

as, for instance, on the lakes where scores of species and

millions of individuals came together to rear their progeny; in

the colonies of rodents; in the migrations of birds which took

place at that time on a truly American scale along the Usuri; and

especially in a migration of fallow-deer which I witnessed on the

Amur, and during which scores of thousands of these intelligent

animals came together from an immense territory, flying before

the coming deep snow, in order to cross the Amur where it is

narrowest -- in all these scenes of animal life which passed

before my eyes, I saw Mutual Aid and Mutual Support carried on to

an extent which made me suspect in it a feature of the greatest

importance for the maintenance of life, the preservation of each

species, and its further evolution.

And finally, I saw among the semi-wild cattle and horses in

Transbaikalia, among the wild ruminants everywhere, the

squirrels, and so on, that when animals have to struggle against

scarcity of food, in consequence of one of the above-mentioned

causes, the whole of that portion of the species which is

affected by the calamity, comes out of the ordeal so much

impoverished in vigour and health, that no progressive evolution

of the species can be based upon such periods of keen


Consequently, when my attention was drawn, later on, to the

relations between Darwinism and Sociology, I could agree with

none of the works and pamphlets that had been written upon this

important subject. They all endeavoured to prove that Man, owing

to his higher intelligence and knowledge, may mitigate the

harshness of the struggle for life between men; but they all

recognized at the same time that the struggle for the means of

existence, of every animal against all its congeners, and of

every man against all other men, was "a law of Nature." This

view, however, I could not accept, because I was persuaded that

to admit a pitiless inner war for life within each species, and

to see in that war a condition of progress, was to admit

something which not only had not yet been proved, but also lacked

confirmation from direct observation.

On the contrary, a lecture "On the Law of Mutual Aid," which

was delivered at a Russian Congress of Naturalists, in January

1880, by the well-known zoologist, Professor Kessler, the then

Dean of the St. Petersburg University, struck me as throwing a

new light on the whole subject. Kessler's idea was, that besides

the law of Mutual Struggle there is in Nature the law of Mutual

Aid, which, for the success of the struggle for life, and

especially for the progressive evolution of the species, is far

more important than the law of mutual contest. This suggestion --

which was, in reality, nothing but a further development of the

ideas expressed by Darwin himself in The Descent of Man -- seemed

to me so correct and of so great an importance, that since I

became acquainted with it (in 1883) I began to collect materials

for further developing the idea, which Kessler had only cursorily

sketched in his lecture, but had not lived to develop. He died in


In one point only I could not entirely endorse Kessler's

views. Kessler alluded to "parental feeling" and care for progeny
as to the source of mutual inclinations in

animals. However, to determine how far these two feelings have

really been at work in the evolution of sociable instincts, and

how far other instincts have been at work in the same direction,

seems to me a quite distinct and a very wide question, which we

hardly can discuss yet. It will be only after we have well

established the facts of mutual aid in different classes of

animals, and their importance for evolution, that we shall be

able to study what belongs in the evolution of sociable feelings,

to parental feelings, and what to sociability proper -- the

latter having evidently its origin at the earliest stages of the

evolution of the animal world, perhaps even at the

"colony-stages." I consequently directed my chief attention to

establishing first of all, the importance of the Mutual Aid

factor of evolution, leaving to ulterior research the task of

discovering the origin of the Mutual Aid instinct in Nature.

The importance of the Mutual Aid factor -- "if its generality

could only be demonstrated" -- did not escape the naturalist's

genius so manifest in Goethe. When Eckermann told once to Goethe

-- it was in 1827 -- that two little wren-fledglings, which had

run away from him, were found by him next day in the nest of

robin redbreasts (Rothkehlchen), which fed the little ones,

together with their own youngsters, Goethe grew quite excited

about this fact. He saw in it a confirmation of his pantheistic

views, and said: -- "If it be true that this feeding of a

stranger goes through all Nature as something having the

character of a general law -- then many an enigma would be

solved. "He returned to this matter on the next day, and most

earnestly entreated Eckermann (who was, as is known, a zoologist)

to make a special study of the subject, adding that he would

surely come "to quite invaluable treasuries of results"

(Gespr?che, edition of 1848, vol. iii. pp. 219, 221).

Unfortunately, this study was never made, although it is very

possible that Brehm, who has accumulated in his works such rich

materials relative to mutual aid among animals, might have been

inspired by Goethe's remark.

Several works of importance were published in the years

1872-1886, dealing with the intelligence and the mental life of

animals (they are mentioned in a footnote in Chapter I of this

book), and three of them dealt more especially with the subject

under consideration; namely, Les Soci?t?s animales, by Espinas

(Paris, 1877); La Lutte pour l'existence et l'association pout la

lutte, a lecture by J.L. Lanessan (April 1881); and Louis

B?chner's book, Liebe und Liebes-Leben in der Thierwelt, of which

the first edition appeared in 1882 or 1883, and a second, much

enlarged, in 1885. But excellent though each of these works is,

they leave ample room for a work in which Mutual Aid would be

considered, not only as an argument in favour of a pre-human

origin of moral instincts, but also as a law of Nature and a

factor of evolution. Espinas devoted his main attention to such

animal societies (ants, bees) as are established upon a

physiological division of labour, and though his work is full of

admirable hints in all possible directions, it was written at a

time when the evolution of human societies could not yet be

treated with the knowledge we now possess. Lanessan's lecture has

more the character of a brilliantly laid-out general plan of a

work, in which mutual support would be dealt with, beginning with

rocks in the sea, and then passing in review the world of plants,

of animals and men. As to B?chner's work, suggestive though it is

and rich in facts, I could not agree with its leading idea. The

book begins with a hymn to Love, and nearly all its illustrations

are intended to prove the existence of love and sympathy among

animals. However, to reduce animal sociability to love and

sympathy means to reduce its generality and its importance, just

as human ethics based upon love and personal sympathy only have

contributed to narrow the comprehension of the moral feeling as a

whole. It is not love to my neighbour -- whom I often do not know

at all -- which induces me to seize a pail of water and to rush

towards his house when I see it on fire; it is a far wider, even

though more vague feeling or instinct of human solidarity and

sociability which moves me. So it is also with animals. It is not

love, and not even sympathy (understood in its proper sense)

which induces a herd of ruminants or of horses to form a ring in

order to resist an attack of wolves; not love which induces

wolves to form a pack for hunting; not love which induces kittens

or lambs to play, or a dozen of species of young birds to spend

their days together in the autumn; and it is neither love nor

personal sympathy which induces many thousand fallow-deer

scattered over a territory as large as France to form into a

score of separate herds, all marching towards a given spot, in

order to cross there a river. It is a feeling infinitely wider

than love or personal sympathy -- an instinct that has been

slowly developed among animals and men in the course of an

extremely long evolution, and which has taught animals and men

alike the force they can borrow from the practice of mutual aid

and support, and the joys they can find in social life.

The importance of this distinction will be easily appreciated

by the student of animal psychology, and the more so by the

student of human ethics. Love, sympathy and self-sacrifice

certainly play an immense part in the progressive development of

our moral feelings. But it is not love and not even sympathy upon

which Society is based in mankind. It is the conscience -- be it

only at the stage of an instinct -- of human solidarity. It is

the unconscious recognition of the force that is borrowed by each

man from the practice of mutual aid; of the close dependency of

every one's happiness upon the happiness of all; and of the sense

of justice, or equity, which brings the individual to consider

the rights of every other individual as equal to his own. Upon

this broad and necessary foundation the still higher moral

feelings are developed. But this subject lies outside the scope

of the present work, and I shall only indicate here a lecture,

"Justice and Morality" which I delivered in reply to Huxley's

Ethics, and in which the subject has been treated at some length.

Consequently I thought that a book, written on Mutual Aid as

a Law of Nature and a factor of evolution, might fill an

important gap. When Huxley issued, in 1888, his

"Struggle-for-life" manifesto (Struggle for Existence and its

Bearing upon Man), which to my appreciation was a very incorrect

representation of the facts of Nature, as one sees them in the

bush and in the forest, I communicated with the editor of the

Nineteenth Century, asking him whether he would give the

hospitality of his review to an elaborate reply to the views of

one of the most prominent Darwinists; and Mr. James Knowles

received the proposal with fullest sympathy. I also spoke of it

to W. Bates. "Yes, certainly; that is true Darwinism," was his

reply. "It is horrible what 'they' have made of Darwin. Write

these articles, and when they are printed, I will write to you a

letter which you may publish. "Unfortunately, it took me nearly

seven years to write these articles, and when the last was

published, Bates was no longer living.

After having discussed the importance of mutual aid in

various classes of animals, I was evidently bound to discuss the

importance of the same factor in the evolution of Man. This was

the more necessary as there are a number of evolutionists who may

not refuse to admit the importance of mutual aid among animals,

but who, like Herbert Spencer, will refuse to admit it for Man.

For primitive Man -- they maintain -- war of each against all was

the law of life. In how far this assertion, which has been too

willingly repeated, without sufficient criticism, since the times

of Hobbes, is supported by what we know about the early phases of

human development, is discussed in the chapters given to the

Savages and the Barbarians.

The number and importance of mutual-aid institutions which

were developed by the creative genius of the savage and

half-savage masses, during the earliest clan-period of mankind

and still more during the next village-community period, and the

immense influence which these early institutions have exercised

upon the subsequent development of mankind, down to the present

times, induced me to extend my researches to the later,

historical periods as well; especially, to study that most

interesting period -- the free medieval city republics, of which

the universality and influence upon our modern civilization have

not yet been duly appreciated. And finally, I have tried to

indicate in brief the immense importance which the mutual-support

instincts, inherited by mankind from its extremely long

evolution, play even now in our modern society, which is supposed

to rest upon the principle: "every one for himself, and the State

for all," but which it never has succeeded, nor will succeed in


It may be objected to this book that both animals and men are

represented in it under too favourable an aspect; that their

sociable qualities are insisted upon, while their anti-social and

self-asserting instincts are hardly touched upon. This was,

however, unavoidable. We have heard so much lately of the "harsh,

pitiless struggle for life," which was said to be carried on by

every animal against all other animals, every "savage" against

all other "savages," and every civilized man against all his

co-citizens -- and these assertions have so much become an

article of faith -- that it was necessary, first of all, to

oppose to them a wide series of facts showing animal and human

life under a quite different aspect. It was necessary to indicate

the overwhelming importance which sociable habits play in Nature

and in the progressive evolution of both the animal species and

human beings: to prove that they secure to animals a better

protection from their enemies, very often facilities for getting

food and (winter provisions, migrations, etc.), longevity,

therefore a greater facility for the development of intellectual

faculties; and that they have given to men, in addition to the

same advantages, the possibility of working out those

institutions which have enabled mankind to survive in its hard

struggle against Nature, and to progress, notwithstanding all the

vicissitudes of its history. It is a book on the law of Mutual

Aid, viewed at as one of the chief factors of evolution -- not on

all factors of evolution and their respective values; and this

first book had to be written, before the latter could become


I should certainly be the last to underrate the part which

the self-assertion of the individual has played in the evolution

of mankind. However, this subject requires, I believe, a much

deeper treatment than the one it has hitherto received. In the

history of mankind, individual self-assertion has often been, and

continually is, something quite different from, and far larger

and deeper than, the petty, unintelligent narrow-mindedness,

which, with a large class of writers, goes for "individualism"

and "self-assertion." Nor have history-making individuals been

limited to those whom historians have represented as heroes. My

intention, consequently, is, if circumstances permit it, to

discuss separately the part taken by the self-assertion of the

individual in the progressive evolution of mankind. I can only

make in this place the following general remark: -- When the

Mutual Aid institutions -- the tribe, the village community, the

guilds, the medieval city -- began, in the course of history, to

lose their primitive character, to be invaded by parasitic

growths, and thus to become hindrances to progress, the revolt of

individuals against these institutions took always two different

aspects. Part of those who rose up strove to purify the old

institutions, or to work out a higher form of commonwealth, based

upon the same Mutual Aid principles; they tried, for instance, to

introduce the principle of "compensation," instead of the lex

talionis, and later on, the pardon of offences, or a still higher

ideal of equality before the human conscience, in lieu of

"compensation," according to class-value. But at the very same

time, another portion of the same individual rebels endeavoured

to break down the protective institutions of mutual support, with

no other intention but to increase their own wealth and their own

powers. In this three-cornered contest, between the two classes

of revolted individuals and the supporters of what existed, lies

the real tragedy of history. But to delineate that contest, and

honestly to study the part played in the evolution of mankind by

each one of these three forces, would require at least as many

years as it took me to write this book.

Of works dealing with nearly the same subject, which have

been published since the publication of my articles on Mutual Aid

among Animals, I must mention The Lowell Lectures on the Ascent

of Man, by Henry Drummond (London, 1894), and The Origin and

Growth of the Moral Instinct, by A. Sutherland (London, 1898).

Both are constructed chiefly on the lines taken in B?chner's

Love, and in the second work the parental and familial feeling as

the sole influence at work in the development of the moral

feelings has been dealt with at some length. A third work dealing

with man and written on similar lines is The Principles of

Sociology, by Prof. F.A. Giddings, the first edition of which was

published in 1896 at New York and London, and the leading ideas

of which were sketched by the author in a pamphlet in 1894. I

must leave, however, to literary critics the task of discussing

the points of contact, resemblance, or divergence between these

works and mine.

The different chapters of this book were published first in

the Nineteenth Century ("Mutual Aid among Animals," in September

and November 1890; "Mutual Aid among Savages," in April 1891;

"Mutual Aid among the Barbarians," in January 1892; "Mutual Aid

in the Medieval City," in August and September 1894; and "Mutual

Aid amongst Modern Men," in January and June 1896). In bringing

them out in a book form my first intention was to embody in an

Appendix the mass of materials, as well as the discussion of

several secondary points, which had to be omitted in the review

articles. It appeared, however, that the Appendix would double

the size of the book, and I was compelled to abandon, or, at

least, to postpone its publication. The present Appendix includes

the discussion of only a few points which have been the matter of

scientific controversy during the last few years; and into the

text I have introduced only such matter as could be introduced

without altering the structure of the work.

I am glad of this opportunity for expressing to the editor of

the Nineteenth Century, Mr. James Knowles, my very best thanks,

both for the kind hospitality which he offered to these papers in

his review, as soon as he knew their general idea, and the

permission he kindly gave me to reprint them.

Bromley, Kent, 1902.


1. Mutual aid among animals

Submitted by libcom on January 31, 2006

Struggle for existence. -- Mutual Aid -- a law of Nature and
chief factor of progressive evolution. -- Invertebrates. -- Ants
and Bees -- Birds: Hunting and fishing associations. --
Sociability. -- Mutual protection among small birds. -- Cranes;

The conception of struggle for existence as a factor of

evolution, introduced into science by Darwin and Wallace, has

permitted us to embrace an immensely wide range of phenomena in

one single generalization, which soon became the very basis of

our philosophical, biological, and sociological speculations. An

immense variety of facts: -- adaptations of function and

structure of organic beings to their surroundings; physiological

and anatomical evolution; intellectual progress, and moral

development itself, which we formerly used to explain by so many

different causes, were embodied by Darwin in one general

conception. We understood them as continued endeavours -- as a

struggle against adverse circumstances -- for such a development

of individuals, races, species and societies, as would result in

the greatest possible fulness, variety, and intensity of life. It

may be that at the outset Darwin himself was not fully aware of

the generality of the factor which he first invoked for

explaining one series only of facts relative to the accumulation

of individual variations in incipient species. But he foresaw

that the term which he was introducing into science would lose

its philosophical and its only true meaning if it were to be used

in its narrow sense only -- that of a struggle between separate

individuals for the sheer means of existence. And at the very

beginning of his memorable work he insisted upon the term being

taken in its "large and metaphorical sense including dependence

of one being on another, and including (which is more important)

not only the life of the individual, but success in leaving


While he himself was chiefly using the term in its narrow

sense for his own special purpose, he warned his followers

against committing the error (which he seems once to have

committed himself) of overrating its narrow meaning. In The

Descent of Man he gave some powerful pages to illustrate its

proper, wide sense. He pointed out how, in numberless animal

societies, the struggle between separate individuals for the

means of existence disappears, how struggle is replaced by

co-operation, and how that substitution results in the

development of intellectual and moral faculties which secure to

the species the best conditions for survival. He intimated that

in such cases the fittest are not the physically strongest, nor

the cunningest, but those who learn to combine so as mutually to

support each other, strong and weak alike, for the welfare of the

community. "Those communities," he wrote, "which included the

greatest number of the most sympathetic members would flourish

best, and rear the greatest number of offspring" (2nd edit., p.

163). The term, which originated from the narrow Malthusian

conception of competition between each and all, thus lost its

narrowness in the mind of one who knew Nature.

Unhappily, these remarks, which might have become the basis

of most fruitful researches, were overshadowed by the masses of

facts gathered for the purpose of illustrating the consequences

of a real competition for life. Besides, Darwin never attempted

to submit to a closer investigation the relative importance of

the two aspects under which the struggle for existence appears in

the animal world, and he never wrote the work he proposed to

write upon the natural checks to over-multiplication, although

that work would have been the crucial test for appreciating the

real purport of individual struggle. Nay, on the very pages just

mentioned, amidst data disproving the narrow Malthusian

conception of struggle, the old Malthusian leaven reappeared --

namely, in Darwin's remarks as to the alleged inconveniences of

maintaining the "weak in mind and body" in our civilized

societies (ch. v). As if thousands of weak-bodied and infirm

poets, scientists, inventors, and reformers, together with other

thousands of so-called "fools" and "weak-minded enthusiasts,"

were not the most precious weapons used by humanity in its

struggle for existence by intellectual and moral arms, which

Darwin himself emphasized in those same chapters of Descent of


It happened with Darwin's theory as it always happens with

theories having any bearing upon human relations. Instead of

widening it according to his own hints, his followers narrowed it

still more. And while Herbert Spencer, starting on independent

but closely allied lines, attempted to widen the inquiry into

that great question, "Who are the fittest?" especially in the

appendix to the third edition of the Data of Ethics, the

numberless followers of Darwin reduced the notion of struggle for

existence to its narrowest limits. They came to conceive the

animal world as a world of perpetual struggle among half-starved

individuals, thirsting for one another's blood. They made modern

literature resound with the war-cry of woe to the vanquished, as

if it were the last word of modern biology. They raised the

"pitiless" struggle for personal advantages to the height of a

biological principle which man must submit to as well, under the

menace of otherwise succumbing in a world based upon mutual

extermination. Leaving aside the economists who know of natural

science but a few words borrowed from second-hand vulgarizers, we

must recognize that even the most authorized exponents of

Darwin's views did their best to maintain those false ideas. In

fact, if we take Huxley, who certainly is considered as one of

the ablest exponents of the theory of evolution, were we not

taught by him, in a paper on the 'Struggle for Existence and its

Bearing upon Man,' that,

"from the point of view of the moralist, the animal world is on

about the same level as a gladiators' show. The creatures are

fairly well treated, and set to, fight hereby the strongest, the

swiftest, and the cunningest live to fight another day. The

spectator has no need to turn his thumb down, as no quarter is


Or, further down in the same article, did he not tell us

that, as among animals, so among primitive men,

"the weakest and stupidest went to the wall, while the toughest

and shrewdest, those who were best fitted to cope with their

circumstances, but not the best in another way, survived. Life

was a continuous free fight, and beyond the limited and temporary

relations of the family, the Hobbesian war of each against all

was the normal state of existence."2

In how far this view of nature is supported by fact, will be

seen from the evidence which will be here submitted to the reader

as regards the animal world, and as regards primitive man. But it

may be remarked at once that Huxley's view of nature had as

little claim to be taken as a scientific deduction as the

opposite view of Rousseau, who saw in nature but love, peace, and

harmony destroyed by the accession of man. In fact, the first

walk in the forest, the first observation upon any animal

society, or even the perusal of any serious work dealing with

animal life (D'Orbigny's, Audubon's, Le Vaillant's, no matter

which), cannot but set the naturalist thinking about the part

taken by social life in the life of animals, and prevent him from

seeing in Nature nothing but a field of slaughter, just as this

would prevent him from seeing in Nature nothing but harmony and

peace. Rousseau had committed the error of excluding the

beak-and-claw fight from his thoughts; and Huxley committed the

opposite error; but neither Rousseau's optimism nor Huxley's

pessimism can be accepted as an impartial interpretation of


As soon as we study animals -- not in laboratories and

museums only, but in the forest and the prairie, in the steppe

and the mountains -- we at once perceive that though there is an

immense amount of warfare and extermination going on amidst

various species, and especially amidst various classes of

animals, there is, at the same time, as much, or perhaps even

more, of mutual support, mutual aid, and mutual defence amidst

animals belonging to the same species or, at least, to the same

society. Sociability is as much a law of nature as mutual

struggle. Of course it would be extremely difficult to estimate,

however roughly, the relative numerical importance of both these

series of facts. But if we resort to an indirect test, and ask

Nature: "Who are the fittest: those who are continually at war

with each other, or those who support one another?" we at once

see that those animals which acquire habits of mutual aid are

undoubtedly the fittest. They have more chances to survive, and

they attain, in their respective classes, the highest development

of intelligence and bodily organization. If the numberless facts

which can be brought forward to support this view are taken into

account, we may safely say that mutual aid is as much a law of

animal life as mutual struggle, but that, as a factor of

evolution, it most probably has a far greater importance,

inasmuch as it favours the development of such habits and

characters as insure the maintenance and further development of

the species, together with the greatest amount of welfare and

enjoyment of life for the individual, with the least waste of


Of the scientific followers of Darwin, the first, as far as I

know, who understood the full purport of Mutual Aid as a law of

Nature and the chief factor of evolution, was a well-known

Russian zoologist, the late Dean of the St. Petersburg

University, Professor Kessler. He developed his ideas in an

address which he delivered in January 1880, a few months before

his death, at a Congress of Russian naturalists; but, like so

many good things published in the Russian tongue only, that

remarkable address remains almost entirely unknown.3

"As a zoologist of old standing," he felt bound to protest

against the abuse of a term -- the struggle for existence --

borrowed from zoology, or, at least, against overrating its

importance. Zoology, he said, and those sciences which deal with

man, continually insist upon what they call the pitiless law of

struggle for existence. But they forget the existence of another

law which may be described as the law of mutual aid, which law,

at least for the animals, is far more essential than the former.

He pointed out how the need of leaving progeny necessarily brings

animals together, and, "the more the individuals keep together,

the more they mutually support each other, and the more are the

chances of the species for surviving, as well as for making

further progress in its intellectual development." "All classes

of animals," he continued, "and especially the higher ones,

practise mutual aid," and he illustrated his idea by examples

borrowed from the life of the burying beetles and the social life

of birds and some mammalia. The examples were few, as might have

been expected in a short opening address, but the chief points

were clearly stated; and, after mentioning that in the evolution

of mankind mutual aid played a still more prominent part,

Professor Kessler concluded as follows: --

"I obviously do not deny the struggle for existence, but I

maintain that the progressive development of the animal kingdom,

and especially of mankind, is favoured much more by mutual

support than by mutual struggle.... All organic beings have two

essential needs: that of nutrition, and that of propagating the

species. The former brings them to a struggle and to mutual

extermination, while the needs of maintaining the species bring

them to approach one another and to support one another. But I am

inclined to think that in the evolution of the organic world --

in the progressive modification of organic beings -- mutual

support among individuals plays a much more important part than

their mutual struggle."4

The correctness of the above views struck most of the Russian

zoologists present, and Syevertsoff, whose work is well known to

ornithologists and geographers, supported them and illustrated

them by a few more examples. He mentioned sone of the species of

falcons which have "an almost ideal organization for robbery,"

and nevertheless are in decay, while other species of falcons,

which practise mutual help, do thrive. "Take, on the other side,

a sociable bird, the duck," he said; "it is poorly organized on

the whole, but it practises mutual support, and it almost invades

the earth, as may be judged from its numberless varieties and


The readiness of the Russian zoologists to accept Kessler's

views seems quite natural, because nearly all of them have had

opportunities of studying the animal world in the wide

uninhabited regions of Northern Asia and East Russia; and it is

impossible to study like regions without being brought to the

same ideas. I recollect myself the impression produced upon me by

the animal world of Siberia when I explored the Vitim regions in

the company of so accomplished a zoologist as my friend Polyakoff

was. We both were under the fresh impression of the Origin of

Species, but we vainly looked for the keen competition between

animals of the same species which the reading of Darwin's work

had prepared us to expect, even after taking into account the

remarks of the third chapter (p. 54). We saw plenty of

adaptations for struggling, very often in common, against the

adverse circumstances of climate, or against various enemies, and

Polyakoff wrote many a good page upon the mutual dependency of

carnivores, ruminants, and rodents in their geographical

distribution; we witnessed numbers of facts of mutual support,

especially during the migrations of birds and ruminants; but even

in the Amur and Usuri regions, where animal life swarms in

abundance, facts of real competition and struggle between higher

animals of the same species came very seldom under my notice,

though I eagerly searched for them. The same impression appears

in the works of most Russian zoologists, and it probably explains

why Kessler's ideas were so welcomed by the Russian Darwinists,

whilst like ideas are not in vogue amidst the followers of Darwin

in Western Europe.

The first thing which strikes us as soon as we begin studying

the struggle for existence under both its aspects -- direct and

metaphorical -- is the abundance of facts of mutual aid, not only

for rearing progeny, as recognized by most evolutionists, but

also for the safety of the individual, and for providing it with

the necessary food. With many large divisions of the animal

kingdom mutual aid is the rule. Mutual aid is met with even

amidst the lowest animals, and we must be prepared to learn some

day, from the students of microscopical pond-life, facts of

unconscious mutual support, even from the life of

micro-organisms. Of course, our knowledge of the life of the

invertebrates, save the termites, the ants, and the bees, is

extremely limited; and yet, even as regards the lower animals, we

may glean a few facts of well-ascertained cooperation. The

numberless associations of locusts, vanessae, cicindelae,

cicadae, and so on, are practically quite unexplored; but the

very fact of their existence indicates that they must be composed

on about the same principles as the temporary associations of

ants or bees for purposes of migration.5 As to the beetles, we

have quite well-observed facts of mutual help amidst the burying

beetles (Necrophorus). They must have some decaying organic

matter to lay their eggs in, and thus to provide their larvae

with food; but that matter must not decay very rapidly. So they

are wont to bury in the ground the corpses of all kinds of small

animals which they occasionally find in their rambles. As a rule,

they live an isolated life, but when one of them has discovered

the corpse of a mouse or of a bird, which it hardly could manage

to bury itself, it calls four, six, or ten other beetles to

perform the operation with united efforts; if necessary, they

transport the corpse to a suitable soft ground; and they bury it

in a very considerate way, without quarrelling as to which of

them will enjoy the privilege of laying its eggs in the buried

corpse. And when Gleditsch attached a dead bird to a cross made

out of two sticks, or suspended a toad to a stick planted in the

soil, the little beetles would in the same friendly way combine

their intelligences to overcome the artifice of Man. The same

combination of efforts has been noticed among the dung-beetles.

Even among animals standing at a somewhat lower stage of

organization we may find like examples. Some land-crabs of the

West Indies and North America combine in large swarms in order to

travel to the sea and to deposit therein their spawn; and each

such migration implies concert, co-operation, and mutual support.

As to the big Molucca crab (Limulus), I was struck (in 1882, at

the Brighton Aquarium) with the extent of mutual assistance which

these clumsy animals are capable of bestowing upon a comrade in

case of need. One of them had fallen upon its back in a corner of

the tank, and its heavy saucepan-like carapace prevented it from

returning to its natural position, the more so as there was in

the corner an iron bar which rendered the task still more

difficult. Its comrades came to the rescue, and for one hour's

time I watched how they endeavoured to help their

fellow-prisoner. They came two at once, pushed their friend from

beneath, and after strenuous efforts succeeded in lifting it

upright; but then the iron bar would prevent them from achieving

the work of rescue, and the crab would again heavily fall upon

its back. After many attempts, one of the helpers would go in the

depth of the tank and bring two other crabs, which would begin

with fresh forces the same pushing and lifting of their helpless

comrade. We stayed in the Aquarium for more than two hours, and,

when leaving, we again came to cast a glance upon the tank: the

work of rescue still continued! Since I saw that, I cannot refuse

credit to the observation quoted by Dr. Erasmus Darwin -- namely,

that "the common crab during the moulting season stations as

sentinel an unmoulted or hard-shelled individual to prevent

marine enemies from injuring moulted individuals in their

unprotected state."6

Facts illustrating mutual aid amidst the termites, the ants,

and the bees are so well known to the general reader, especially

through the works of Romanes, L. B?chner, and Sir John Lubbock,

that I may limit my remarks to a very few hints.7 If we take

an ants' nest, we not only see that every description of

work-rearing of progeny, foraging, building, rearing of aphides,

and so on -- is performed according to the principles of

voluntary mutual aid; we must also recognize, with Forel, that

the chief, the fundamental feature of the life of many species of

ants is the fact and the obligation for every ant of sharing its

food, already swallowed and partly digested, with every member of

the community which may apply for it. Two ants belonging to two

different species or to two hostile nests, when they occasionally

meet together, will avoid each other. But two ants belonging to

the same nest or to the same colony of nests will approach each

other, exchange a few movements with the antennae, and "if one of

them is hungry or thirsty, and especially if the other has its

crop full... it immediately asks for food." The individual thus

requested never refuses; it sets apart its mandibles, takes a

proper position, and regurgitates a drop of transparent fluid

which is licked up by the hungry ant. Regurgitating food for

other ants is so prominent a feature in the life of ants (at

liberty), and it so constantly recurs both for feeding hungry

comrades and for feeding larvae, that Forel considers the

digestive tube of the ants as consisting of two different parts,

one of which, the posterior, is for the special use of the

individual, and the other, the anterior part, is chiefly for the

use of the community. If an ant which has its crop full has been

selfish enough to refuse feeding a comrade, it will be treated as

an enemy, or even worse. If the refusal has been made while its

kinsfolk were fighting with some other species, they will fall

back upon the greedy individual with greater vehemence than even

upon the enemies themselves. And if an ant has not refused to

feed another ant belonging to an enemy species, it will be

treated by the kinsfolk of the latter as a friend. All this is

confirmed by most accurate observation and decisive


In that immense division of the animal kingdom which embodies

more than one thousand species, and is so numerous that the

Brazilians pretend that Brazil belongs to the ants, not to men,

competition amidst the members of the same nest, or the colony of

nests,does not exist. However terrible the wars between different

species, and whatever the atrocities committed at war-time,

mutual aid within the community, self-devotion grown into a

habit, and very often self-sacrifice for the common welfare, are

the rule. The ants and termites have renounced the "Hobbesian

war," and they are the better for it. Their wonderful nests,

their buildings, superior in relative size to those of man; their

paved roads and overground vaulted galleries; their spacious

halls and granaries; their corn-fields, harvesting and "malting"

of grain;9 their, rational methods of nursing their eggs and

larvae, and of building special nests for rearing the aphides

whom Linnaeus so picturesquely described as "the cows of the

ants"; and, finally, their courage, pluck, and, superior

intelligence -- all these are the natural outcome of the mutual

aid which they practise at every stage of their busy and

laborious lives. That mode of life also necessarily resulted in

the development of another essential feature of the life of ants:

the immense development of individual initiative which, in its

turn, evidently led to the development of that high and varied

intelligence which cannot but strike the human observer.10

If we knew no other facts from animal life than what we know

about the ants and the termites, we already might safely conclude

that mutual aid (which leads to mutual confidence, the first

condition for courage) and individual initiative (the first

condition for intellectual progress) are two factors infinitely

more important than mutual struggle in the evolution of the

animal kingdom. In fact, the ant thrives without having any of

the "protective" features which cannot be dispensed with by

animals living an isolated life. Its colour renders it

conspicuous to its enemies, and the lofty nests of many species

are conspicuous in the meadows and forests. It is not protected

by a hard carapace, and its stinging apparatus, however dangerous

when hundreds of stings are plunged into the flesh of an animal,

is not of a great value for individual defence; while the eggs

and larvae of the ants are a dainty for a great number of the

inhabitants of the forests. And yet the ants, in their thousands,

are not much destroyed by the birds, not even by the ant-eaters,

and they are dreaded by most stronger insects. When Forel emptied

a bagful of ants in a meadow, he saw that "the crickets ran away,

abandoning their holes to be sacked by the ants; the grasshoppers

and the crickets fled in all directions; the spiders and the

beetles abandoned their prey in order not to become prey

themselves; "even the nests of the wasps were taken by the ants,

after a battle during which many ants perished for the safety of

the commonwealth. Even the swiftest insects cannot escape, and

Forel often saw butterflies, gnats, flies, and so on, surprised

and killed by the ants. Their force is in mutual support and

mutual confidence. And if the ant -- apart from the still higher

developed termites -- stands at the very top of the whole class

of insects for its intellectual capacities; if its courage is

only equalled by the most courageous vertebrates; and if its

brain -- to use Darwin's words -- "is one of the most marvellous

atoms of matter in the world, perhaps more so than the brain of

man," is it not due to the fact that mutual aid has entirely

taken the place of mutual struggle in the communities of ants?

The same is true as regards the bees. These small insects,

which so easily might become the prey of so many birds, and whose

honey has so many admirers in all classes of animals from the

beetle to the bear, also have none of the protective features

derived from mimicry or otherwise, without which an isolatedly

living insect hardly could escape wholesale destruction; and yet,

owing to the mutual aid they practise, they obtain the wide

extension which we know and the intelligence we admire, By

working in common they multiply their individual forces; by

resorting to a temporary division of labour combined with the

capacity of each bee to perform every kind of work when required,

they attain such a degree of well-being and safety as no isolated

animal can ever expect to achieve however strong or well armed it

may be. In their combinations they are often more successful than

man, when he neglects to take advantage of a well-planned mutual

assistance. Thus, when a new swarm of bees is going to leave the

hive in search of a new abode, a number of bees will make a

preliminary exploration of the neighbourhood, and if they

discover a convenient dwelling-place -- say, an old basket, or

anything of the kind -- they will take possession of it, clean

it, and guard it, sometimes for a whole week, till the swarm

comes to settle therein. But how many human settlers will perish

in new countries simply for not having understood the necessity

of combining their efforts! By combining their individual

intelligences they succeed in coping with adverse circumstances,

even quite unforeseen and unusual, like those bees of the Paris

Exhibition which fastened with their resinous propolis the

shutter to a glass-plate fitted in the wall of their hive.

Besides, they display none of the sanguinary proclivities and

love of useless fighting with which many writers so readily endow

animals. The sentries which guard the entrance to the hive

pitilessly put to death the robbing bees which attempt entering

the hive; but those stranger bees which come to the hive by

mistake are left unmolested, especially if they come laden with

pollen, or are young individuals which can easily go astray.

There is no more warfare than is strictly required.

The sociability of the bees is the more instructive as

predatory instincts and laziness continue to exist among the bees

as well, and reappear each. time that their growth is favoured by

some circumstances. It is well known that there always are a

number of bees which prefer a life of robbery to the laborious

life of a worker; and that both periods of scarcity and periods

of an unusually rich supply of food lead to an increase of the

robbing class. When our crops are in and there remains but little

to gather in our meadows and fields, robbing bees become of more

frequent occurrence; while, on the other side, about the sugar

plantations of the West Indies and the sugar refineries of

Europe, robbery, laziness, and very often drunkenness become

quite usual with the bees. We thus see that anti-social instincts

continue to exist amidst the bees as well; but natural selection

continually must eliminate them, because in the long run the

practice of solidarity proves much more advantageous to the

species than the development of individuals endowed with

predatory inclinations. The cunningest and the shrewdest are

eliminated in favour of those who understand the advantages of

sociable life and mutual support.

Certainly, neither the ants, nor the bees, nor even the

termites, have risen to the conception of a higher solidarity

embodying the whole of the species. In that respect they

evidently have not attained a degree of development which we do

not find even among our political, scientific, and religious

leaders. Their social instincts hardly extend beyond the limits

of the hive or the nest. However, colonies of no less than two

hundred nests, belonging to two different species (Formica

exsecta and F. pressilabris) have been described by Forel on

Mount Tendre and Mount Sal?ve; and Forel maintains that each

member of these colonies recognizes every other member of the

colony, and that they all take part in common defence; while in

Pennsylvania Mr. MacCook saw a whole nation of from 1,600 to

1,700 nests of the mound-making ant, all living in perfect

intelligence; and Mr. Bates has described the hillocks of the

termites covering large surfaces in the "campos" -- some of the

nests being the refuge of two or three different species, and

most of them being connected by vaulted galleries or

arcades.11 Some steps towards the amalgamation of larger

divisions of the species for purposes of mutual protection are

thus met with even among the invertebrate animals.

Going now over to higher animals, we find far more instances

of undoubtedly conscious mutual help for all possible purposes,

though we must recognize at once that our knowledge even of the

life of higher animals still remains very imperfect. A large

number of facts have been accumulated by first-rate observers,

but there are whole divisions of the animal kingdom of which we

know almost nothing. Trustworthy information as regards fishes is

extremely scarce, partly owing to the difficulties of

observation, and partly because no proper attention has yet been

paid to the subject. As to the mammalia, Kessler already remarked

how little we know about their manners of life. Many of them are

nocturnal in their habits; others conceal themselves underground;

and those ruminants whose social life and migrations offer the

greatest interest do not let man approach their herds. It is

chiefly upon birds that we have the widest range of information,

and yet the social life of very many species remains but

imperfectly known. Still, we need not complain about the lack of

well-ascertained facts, as will be seen from the following.

I need not dwell upon the associations of male and female for

rearing their offspring, for providing it with food during their

first steps in life, or for hunting in common; though it may be

mentioned by the way that such associations are the rule even

with the least sociable carnivores and rapacious birds; and that

they derive a special interest from being the field upon which

tenderer feelings develop even amidst otherwise most cruel

animals. It may also be added that the rarity of associations

larger than that of the family among the carnivores and the birds

of prey, though mostly being the result of their very modes of

feeding, can also be explained to some extent as a consequence of

the change produced in the animal world by the rapid increase of

mankind. At any rate it is worthy of note that there are species

living a quite isolated life in densely-inhabited regions, while

the same species, or their nearest congeners, are gregarious in

uninhabited countries. Wolves, foxes, and several birds of prey

may be quoted as instances in point.

However, associations which do not extend beyond the family

bonds are of relatively small importance in our case, the more so

as we know numbers of associations for more general purposes,

such as hunting, mutual protection, and even simple enjoyment of

life. Audubon already mentioned that eagles occasionally

associate for hunting, and his description of the two bald

eagles, male and female, hunting on the Mississippi, is well

known for its graphic powers. But one of the most conclusive

observations of the kind belongs to Syevertsoff. Whilst studying

the fauna of the Russian Steppes, he once saw an eagle belonging

to an altogether gregarious species (the white-tailed eagle,

Haliactos albicilla) rising high in the air for half an hour it

was describing its wide circles in silence when at once its

piercing voice was heard. Its cry was soon answered by another

eagle which approached it, and was followed by a third, a fourth,

and so on, till nine or ten eagles came together and soon

disappeared. In the afternoon, Syevertsoff went to the place

whereto he saw the eagles flying; concealed by one of the

undulations of the Steppe, he approached them, and discovered

that they had gathered around the corpse of a horse. The old

ones, which, as a rule, begin the meal first -- such are their

rules of propriety-already were sitting upon the haystacks of the

neighbourhood and kept watch, while the younger ones were

continuing the meal, surrounded by bands of crows. From this and

like observations, Syevertsoff concluded that the white-tailed

eagles combine for hunting; when they all have risen to a great

height they are enabled, if they are ten, to survey an area of at

least twenty-five miles square; and as soon as any one has

discovered something, he warns the others.12 Of course, it

might be argued that a simple instinctive cry of the first eagle,

or even its movements, would have had the same effect of bringing

several eagles to the prey. but in this case there is strong

evidence in favour of mutual warning, because the ten eagles came

together before descending towards the prey, and Syevertsoff had

later on several opportunities of ascertaining that the

whitetailed eagles always assemble for devouring a corpse, and

that some of them (the younger ones first) always keep watch

while the others are eating. In fact, the white-tailed eagle --

one of the bravest and best hunters -- is a gregarious bird

altogether, and Brehm says that when kept in captivity it very

soon contracts an attachment to its keepers.

Sociability is a common feature with very many other birds of

prey. The Brazilian kite, one of the most "impudent" robbers, is

nevertheless a most sociable bird. Its hunting associations have

been described by Darwin and other naturalists, and it is a fact

that when it has seized upon a prey which is too big, it calls

together five or six friends to carry it away. After a busy day,

when these kites retire for their night-rest to a tree or to the

bushes, they always gather in bands, sometimes coming together

from distances of ten or more miles, and they often are joined by

several other vultures, especially the percnopters, "their true

friends," D'Orbigny says. In another continent, in the

Transcaspian deserts, they have, according to Zarudnyi, the same

habit of nesting together. The sociable vulture, one of the

strongest vultures, has received its very name from its love of

society. They live in numerous bands, and decidedly enjoy

society; numbers of them join in their high flights for sport.

"They live in very good friendship," Le Vaillant says, "and in

the same cave I sometimes found as many as three nests close

together."13 The Urub? vultures of Brazil are as, or perhaps

even more, sociable than rooks.14 The little Egyptian vultures

live in close friendship. They play in bands in the air, they

come together to spend the night, and in the morning they all go

together to search for their food, and never does the slightest

quarrel arise among them; such is the testimony of Brehm, who had

plenty of opportunities of observing their life. The red-throated

falcon is also met with in numerous bands in the forests of

Brazil, and the kestrel (Tinnunculus cenchris), when it has left

Europe, and has reached in the winter the prairies and forests of

Asia, gathers in numerous societies. In the Steppes of South

Russia it is (or rather was) so sociable that Nordmann saw them

in numerous bands, with other falcons (Falco tinnunculus, F.

oesulon, and F. subbuteo), coming together every fine afternoon

about four o'clock, and enjoying their sports till late in the

night. They set off flying, all at once, in a quite straight

line, towards some determined point, and. having reached it,

immediately returned over the same line, to repeat the same


To take flights in flocks for the mere pleasure of the

flight, is quite common among all sorts of birds. "In the Humber

district especially," Ch. Dixon writes, "vast flights of dunlins

often appear upon the mud-flats towards the end of August, and

remain for the winter.... The movements of these birds are most

interesting, as a vast flock wheels and spreads out or closes up

with as much precision as drilled troops. Scattered among them

are many odd stints and sanderlings and ringed-plovers."16

It would be quite impossible to enumerate here the various

hunting associations of birds; but the fishing associations of

the pelicans are certainly worthy of notice for the remarkable

order and intelligence displayed by these clumsy birds. They

always go fishing in numerous bands, and after having chosen an

appropriate bay, they form a wide half-circle in face of the

shore, and narrow it by paddling towards the shore, catching all

fish that happen to be enclosed in the circle. On narrow rivers

and canals they even divide into two parties, each of which draws

up on a half-circle, and both paddle to meet each other, just as

if two parties of men dragging two long nets should advance to

capture all fish taken between the nets when both parties come to

meet. As the night comes they fly to their resting-places --

always the same for each flock -- and no one has ever seen them

fighting for the possession of either the bay or the resting

place. In South America they gather in flocks of from forty to

fifty thousand individuals, part of which enjoy sleep while the

others keep watch, and others again go fishing.17 And finally,

I should be doing an injustice to the much-calumniated

house-sparrows if I did not mention how faithfully each of them

shares any food it discovers with all members of the society to

which it belongs. The fact was known to the Greeks, and it has

been transmitted to posterity how a Greek orator once exclaimed

(I quote from memory): -- "While I am speaking to you a sparrow

has come to tell to other sparrows that a slave has dropped on

the floor a sack of corn, and they all go there to feed upon the

grain." The more, one is pleased to find this observation of old

confirmed in a recent little book by Mr. Gurney, who does not

doubt that the house sparrows always inform each other as to

where there is some food to steal; he says, "When a stack has

been thrashed ever so far from the yard, the sparrows in the yard

have always had their crops full of the grain."18 True, the

sparrows are extremely particular in keeping their domains free

from the invasions of strangers; thus the sparrows of the Jardin

du Luxembourg bitterly fight all other sparrows which may attempt

to enjoy their turn of the garden and its visitors; but within

their own communities they fully practise mutual support, though

occasionally there will be of course some quarrelling even

amongst the best friends.

Hunting and feeding in common is so much the habit in the

feathered world that more quotations hardly would be needful: it

must be considered as an established fact. As to the force

derived from such associations, it is self-evident. The strongest

birds of prey are powerless in face of the associations of our

smallest bird pets. Even eagles -- even the powerful and terrible

booted eagle, and the martial eagle, which is strong enough to

carry away a hare or a young antelope in its claws -- are

compelled to abandon their prey to bands of those beggars the

kites, which give the eagle a regular chase as soon as they see

it in possession of a good prey. The kites will also give chase

to the swift fishing-hawk, and rob it of the fish it has

captured; but no one ever saw the kites fighting together for the

possession of the prey so stolen. On the Kerguelen Island, Dr.

Cou?s saw the gulls to Buphogus -- the sea-hen of the sealers --

pursue make them disgorge their food, while, on the other side,

the gulls and the terns combined to drive away the sea-hen as

soon as it came near to their abodes, especially at

nesting-time.19 The little, but extremely swift lapwings

(Vanellus cristatus) boldly attack the birds of prey. "To see

them attacking a buzzard, a kite, a crow, or an eagle, is one of

the most amusing spectacles. One feels that they are sure of

victory, and one sees the anger of the bird of prey. In such

circumstances they perfectly support one another, and their

courage grows with their numbers.20 The lapwing has well

merited the name of a "good mother" which the Greeks gave to it,

for it never fails to protect other aquatic birds from the

attacks of their enemies. But even the little white wagtails

(Motacilla alba), whom we well know in our gardens and whose

whole length hardly attains eight inches, compel the sparrow-hawk

to abandon its hunt. "I often admired their courage and agility,"

the old Brehm wrote, "and I am persuaded that the falcon alone is

capable of capturing any of them.... When a band of wagtails has

compelled a bird of prey to retreat, they make the air resound

with their triumphant cries, and after that they separate. "They

thus come together for the special purpose of giving chase to

their enemy, just as we see it when the whole bird-population of

a forest has been raised by the news that a nocturnal bird has

made its appearance during the day, and all together -- birds of

prey and small inoffensive singers -- set to chase the stranger

and make it return to its concealment.

What an immense difference between the force of a kite, a

buzzard or a hawk, and such small birds as the meadow-wagtail;

and yet these little birds, by their common action and courage,

prove superior to the powerfully-winged and armed robbers! In

Europe, the wagtails not only chase the birds of prey which might

be dangerous to them, but they chase also the fishing-hawk

"rather for fun than for doing it any harm;" while in India,

according to Dr. Jerdon's testimony, the jackdaws chase the

gowinda-kite "for simple matter of amusement." Prince Wied saw

the Brazilian eagle urubitinga surrounded by numberless flocks of

toucans and cassiques (a bird nearly akin to our rook), which

mocked it. "The eagle," he adds, "usually supports these insults

very quietly, but from time to time it will catch one of these

mockers." In all such cases the little birds, though very much

inferior in force to the bird of prey, prove superior to it by

their common action.21

However, the most striking effects of common life for the

security of the individual, for its enjoyment of life, and for

the development of its intellectual capacities, are seen in two

great families of birds, the cranes and the parrots. The cranes

are extremely sociable and live in most excellent relations, not

only with their congeners, but also with most aquatic birds.

Their prudence is really astonishing, so also their intelligence;

they grasp the new conditions in a moment, and act accordingly.

Their sentries always keep watch around a flock which is feeding

or resting, and the hunters know well how difficult it is to

approach them. If man has succeeded in surprising them, they will

never return to the same place without having sent out one single

scout first, and a party of scouts afterwards; and when the

reconnoitring party returns and reports that there is no danger,

a second group of scouts is sent out to verify the first report,

before the whole band moves. With kindred species the cranes

contract real friendship; and in captivity there is no bird, save

the also sociable and highly intelligent parrot, which enters

into such real friendship with man. "It sees in man, not a

master, but a friend, and endeavours to manifest it," Brehm

concludes from a wide personal experience. The crane is in

continual activity from early in the morning till late in the

night; but it gives a few hours only in the morning to the task

of searching its food, chiefly vegetable. All the remainder of

the day is given to society life. "It picks up small pieces of

wood or small stones, throws them in the air and tries to catch

them; it bends its neck, opens its wings, dances, jumps, runs

about, and tries to manifest by all means its good disposition of

mind, and always it remains graceful and beautiful."22 As it

lives in society it has almost no enemies, and though Brehm

occasionally saw one of them captured by a crocodile, he wrote

that except the crocodile he knew no enemies of the crane. It

eschews all of them by its proverbial prudence; and it attains,

as a rule, a very old age. No wonder that for the maintenance of

the species the crane need not rear a numerous offspring; it

usually hatches but two eggs. As to its superior intelligence, it

is sufficient to say that all observers are unanimous in

recognizing that its intellectual capacities remind one very much

of those of man.

The other extremely sociable bird, the parrot, stands, as

known, at the very top of the whole feathered world for the

development of its intelligence. Brehm has so admirably summed up

the manners of life of the parrot, that I cannot do better than

translate the following sentence: --

"Except in the pairing season, they live in very numerous

societies or bands. They choose a place in the forest to stay

there, and thence they start every morning for their hunting

expeditions. The members of each band remain faithfully attached

to each other, and they share in common good or bad luck. All

together they repair in the morning to a field, or to a garden,

or to a tree, to feed upon fruits. They post sentries to keep

watch over the safety of the whole band, and are attentive to

their warnings. In case of danger, all take to flight, mutually

supporting each other, and all simultaneously return to their

resting-place. In a word, they always live closely united."

They enjoy society of other birds as well. In India, the jays

and crows come together from many miles round, to spend the night

in company with the parrots in the bamboo thickets. When the

parrots start hunting, they display the most wonderful

intelligence, prudence, and capacity of coping with

circumstances. Take, for instance, a band of white cacadoos in

Australia. Before starting to plunder a corn-field, they first

send out a reconnoitring party which occupies the highest trees

in the vicinity of the field, while other scouts perch upon the

intermediate trees between the field and the forest and transmit

the signals. If the report runs "All right," a score of cacadoos

will separate from the bulk of the band, take a flight in the

air, and then fly towards the trees nearest to the field. They

also will scrutinize the neighbourhood for a long while, and only

then will they give the signal for general advance, after which

the whole band starts at once and plunders the field in no time.

The Australian settlers have the greatest difficulties in

beguiling the prudence of the parrots; but if man, with all his

art and weapons, has succeeded in killing some of them, the

cacadoos become so prudent and watchful that they henceforward

baffle all stratagems.23

There can be no doubt that it is the practice of life in

society which enables the parrots to attain that very high level

of almost human intelligence and almost human feelings which we

know in them. Their high intelligence has induced the best

naturalists to describe some species, namely the grey parrot, as

the "birdman." As to their mutual attachment it is known that

when a parrot has been killed by a hunter, the others fly over

the corpse of their comrade with shrieks of complaints and

"themselves fall the victims of their friendship," as Audubon

said; and when two captive parrots, though belonging to two

different species, have contracted mutual friendship, the

accidental death of one of the two friends has sometimes been

followed by the death from grief and sorrow of the other friend.

It is no less evident that in their societies they find

infinitely more protection than they possibly might find in any

ideal development of beak and claw. Very few birds of prey or

mammals dare attack any but the smaller species of parrots, and

Brehm is absolutely right in saying of the parrots, as he also

says of the cranes and the sociable monkeys, that they hardly

have any enemies besides men; and he adds: "It is most probable

that the larger parrots succumb chiefly to old age rather than

die from the claws of any enemies." Only man, owing to his still

more superior intelligence and weapons, also derived from

association, succeeds in partially destroying them. Their very

longevity would thus appear as a result of their social life.

Could we not say the same as regards their wonderful memory,

which also must be favoured in its development by society -- life

and by longevity accompanied by a full enjoyment of bodily and

mental faculties till a very old age?

As seen from the above, the war of each against all is not

the law of nature. Mutual aid is as much a law of nature as

mutual struggle, and that law will become still more apparent

when we have analyzed some other associations of birds and those

of the mammalia. A few hints as to the importance of the law of

mutual aid for the evolution of the animal kingdom have already

been given in the preceding pages; but their purport will still

better appear when, after having given a few more illustrations,

we shall be enabled presently to draw therefrom our conclusions.


1 Origin of Species, chap. iii.
2 Nineteenth Century, Feb. 1888, p. 165.
3 Leaving aside the pre-Darwinian writers, like Toussenel, F?e,
and many others, several works containing many striking instances
of mutual aid -- chiefly, however, illustrating animal
intelligence were issued previously to that date. I may mention
those of Houzeau, Les facult?s etales des animaux, 2 vols.,
Brussels, 1872; L. B?chner's Aus dem Geistesleben der Thiere, 2nd
ed. in 1877; and Maximilian Perty's Ueber das Seelenleben der
Thiere, Leipzig, 1876. Espinas published his most remarkable
work, Les Soci?t?s animales, in 1877, and in that work he pointed
out the importance of animal societies, and their bearing upon
the preservation of species, and entered upon a most valuable
discussion of the origin of societies. In fact, Espinas's book
contains all that has been written since upon mutual aid, and
many good things besides. If I nevertheless make a special
mention of Kessler's address, it is because he raised mutual aid
to the height of a law much more important in evolution than the
law of mutual struggle. The same ideas were developed next year
(in April 1881) by J. Lanessan in a lecture published in 1882
under this title: La lutte pour l'existence et l'association pour
la lutte. G. Romanes's capital work, Animal Intelligence, was
issued in 1882, and followed next year by the Mental Evolution in
Animals. About the same time (1883), B?chner published another
work, Liebe und Liebes-Leben in der Thierwelt, a second edition
of which was issued in 1885. The idea, as seen, was in the air.
4 Memoirs (Trudy) of the St. Petersburg Society of Naturalists,
vol. xi. 1880.
5 See Appendix I.
6 George J. Romanes's Animal Intelligence, 1st ed. p. 233.
7 Pierre Huber's Les fourmis indig?es, G?n?ve, 1861; Forel's
Recherches sur les fourmis de la Suisse, Zurich, 1874, and J.T.
Moggridge's Harvesting Ants and Trapdoor Spiders, London, 1873
and 1874, ought to be in the hands of every boy and girl. See
also: Blanchard's M?tamorphoses des Insectes, Paris, 1868; J.H.
Fabre's Souvenirs entomologiques, Paris, 1886; Ebrard's Etudes
des moeurs des fourmis, G?n?ve, 1864; Sir John Lubbock's Ants,
Bees, and Wasps, and so on.
8 Forel's Recherches, pp. 244, 275, 278. Huber's description of
the process is admirable. It also contains a hint as to the
possible origin of the instinct (popular edition, pp. 158, 160).
See Appendix II.
9 The agriculture of the ants is so wonderful that for a long
time it has been doubted. The fact is now so well proved by Mr.
Moggridge, Dr. Lincecum, Mr. MacCook, Col. Sykes, and Dr. Jerdon,
that no doubt is possible. See an excellent summary of evidence
in Mr. Romanes's work. See also Die Pilzgaerten einiger
S?d-Amerikanischen Ameisen, by Alf. Moeller, in Schimper's Botan.
Mitth. aus den Tropen, vi. 1893.
10 This second principle was not recognized at once. Former
observers often spoke of kings, queens, managers, and so on; but
since Huber and Forel have published their minute observations,
no doubt is possible as to the free scope left for every
individual's initiative in whatever the ants do, including their
11 H.W. Bates, The Naturalist on the River Amazons, ii. 59 seq.
12 N. Syevertsoff, Periodical Phenomena in the Life of Mammalia,
Birds, and Reptiles of Voron?je, Moscow, 1855 (in Russian).
13 A. Brehm, Life of Animals, iii. 477; all quotations after the
French edition.
14 Bates, p. 151.
15 Catalogue raisonn? des oiseaux de la faune pontique, in
D?midoff's Voyage; abstracts in Brehm, iii. 360. During their
migrations birds of prey often associate. One flock, which H.
Seebohm saw crossing the Pyrenees, represented a curious
assemblage of "eight kites, one crane, and a peregrine falcon"
(The Birds of Siberia, 1901, p. 417).
16 Birds in the Northern Shires, p. 207.
17 Max. Perty, Ueber das Seelenleben der Thiere (Leipzig, 1876),
pp. 87, 103.
18 G. H. Gurney, The House-Sparrow (London, 1885), p. 5.
19 Dr. Elliot Cou?s, Birds of the Kerguelen Island, in
Smithsonian Miscellaneous Collections, vol. xiii. No. 2, p. 11.
20 Brehm, iv. 567.
21 As to the house-sparrows, a New Zealand observer, Mr. T.W.
Kirk, described as follows the attack of these "impudent" birds
upon an "unfortunate" hawk. -- "He heard one day a most unusual
noise, as though all the small birds of the country had joined in
one grand quarrel. Looking up, he saw a large hawk (C. gouldi --
a carrion feeder) being buffeted by a flock of sparrows. They
kept dashing at him in scores, and from all points at once. The
unfortunate hawk was quite powerless. At last, approaching some
scrub, the hawk dashed into it and remained there, while the
sparrows congregated in groups round the bush, keeping up a
constant chattering and noise" (Paper read before the New Zealand
Institute; Nature, Oct. 10, 1891).
22 Brehm, iv. 671 seq.
23 R. Lendenfeld, in Der zoologische Garten, 1889.


2. Mutual aid among animals (cont.)

Submitted by libcom on January 31, 2006

Migrations of birds.-- Breeding associations. -- Autumn
societies. -- Mammals: small number of unsociable species. --
Hunting associations of wolves, lions, etc. -- Societies of
rodents; of ruminants; of monkeys. -- Mutual Aid in the struggle
for life. -- Darwin's arguments to prove the struggle for life
within the species. -- Natural checks to over-multiplication. --
Supposed extermination of intermediate links. -- Elimination of
competition in Nature.

As soon as spring comes back to the temperate zone, myriads

and myriads of birds which are scattered over the warmer regions

of the South come together in numberless bands, and, full of

vigour and joy, hasten northwards to rear their offspring. Each

of our hedges, each grove, each ocean cliff, and each of the

lakes and ponds with which Northern America, Northern Europe, and

Northern Asia are dotted tell us at that time of the year the

tale of what mutual aid means for the birds; what force, energy,

and protection it confers to every living being, however feeble

and defenceless it otherwise might be. Take, for instance, one of

the numberless lakes of the Russian and Siberian Steppes. Its

shores are peopled with myriads of aquatic birds, belonging to at

least a score of different species, all living in perfect

peace-all protecting one another.

"For several hundred yards from the shore the air is filled with

gulls and terns, as with snow-flakes on a winter day. Thousands

of plovers and sand-coursers run over the beach, searching their.

food, whistling, and simply enjoying life. Further on, on almost

each wave, a duck is rocking, while higher up you notice the

flocks of the Casarki ducks. Exuberant life swarms


And here are the robbers -- the strongest, the most cunning

ones, those "ideally organized for robbery." And you hear their

hungry, angry, dismal cries as for hours in succession they watch

the opportunity of snatching from this mass of living beings one

single unprotected individual. But as soon as they approach,

their presence is signalled by dozens of voluntary sentries, and

hundreds of gulls and terns set to chase the robber. Maddened by

hunger, the robber soon abandons his usual precautions: he

suddenly dashes into the living mass; but, attacked from all

sides, he again is compelled to retreat. From sheer despair he

falls upon the wild ducks; but the intelligent, social birds

rapidly gather in a flock and fly away if the robber is an erne;

they plunge into the lake if it is a falcon; or they raise a

cloud of water-dust and bewilder the assailant if it is a

kite.2 And while life continues to swarm on the lake, the

robber flies away with cries of anger, and looks out for carrion,

or for a young bird or a field-mouse not yet used to obey in time

the warnings of its comrades. In the face of an exuberant life,

the ideally-armed robber must be satisfied with the off-fall of

that life.

Further north, in the Arctic archipelagoes,

"you may sail along the coast for many miles and see all the

ledges, all the cliffs and corners of the mountain-sides, up to a

height of from two to five hundred feet, literally covered with

sea-birds, whose white breasts show against the dark rocks as if

the rocks were closely sprinkled with chalk specks. The air, near

and far, is, so to say, full with fowls."3

Each of such "bird-mountains" is a living illustration of mutual

aid, as well as of the infinite variety of characters, individual

and specific, resulting from social life. The oyster-catcher is

renowned for its readiness to attack the birds of prey. The barge

is known for its watchfulness, and it easily becomes the leader

of more placid birds. The turnstone, when surrounded by comrades

belonging to more energetic species, is a rather timorous bird;

but it undertakes to keep watch for the security of the

commonwealth when surrounded by smaller birds. Here you have the

dominative swans; there, the extremely sociable kittiwake-gulls,

among whom quarrels are rare and short; the prepossessing polar

guillemots, which continually caress each other; the egoist

she-goose, who has repudiated the orphans of a killed comrade;

and, by her side, another female who adopts any one's orphans,

and now paddles surrounded by fifty or sixty youngsters, whom she

conducts and cares for as if they all were her own breed. Side by

side with the penguins, which steal one another's eggs, you have

the dotterels, whose family relations are so "charming and

touching" that even passionate hunters recoil from shooting a

female surrounded by her young ones; or the eider-ducks, among

which (like the velvet-ducks, or the coroyas of the Savannahs)

several females hatch together in the same, nest. or the lums,

which sit in turn upon a common covey. Nature is variety itself,

offering all possible varieties of characters, from the basest to

the highest: and that is why she cannot be depicted by any

sweeping assertion. Still less can she be judged from the

moralist's point of view, because the views of the moralist are

themselves a result -- mostly unconscious -- of the observation

of Nature.4

Coming together at nesting-time is so common with most birds

that more examples are scarcely needed. Our trees are crowned

with groups of crows' nests; our hedges are full of nests of

smaller birds; our farmhouses give shelter to colonies of

swallows; our old towers are the refuge of hundreds of nocturnal

birds; and pages might be filled with the most charming

descriptions of the peace and harmony which prevail in almost all

these nesting associations. As to the protection derived by the

weakest birds from their unions, it is evident. That excellent

observer, Dr. Cou?s, saw, for instance, the little cliff-swallows

nesting in the immediate neighbourhood of the prairie falcon

(Falco polyargus). The falcon had its nest on the top of one of

the minarets of clay which are so common in the ca?ons of

Colorado, while a colony of swallows nested just beneath. The

little peaceful birds had no fear of their rapacious neighbour;

they never let it approach to their colony. They immediately

surrounded it and chased it, so that it had to make off at


Life in societies does not cease when the nesting period is

over; it begins then in a new form. The young broods gather in

societies of youngsters, generally including several species.

Social life is practised at that time chiefly for its own sake --

partly for security, but chiefly for the pleasures derived from

it. So we see in our forests the societies formed by the young

nuthatchers (Sitta caesia), together with tit-mouses,

chaffinches, wrens, tree-creepers, or some wood-peckers.6 In

Spain the swallow is met with in company with kestrels,

fly-catchers, and even pigeons. In the Far West of America the

young horned larks live in large societies, together with another

lark (Sprague's), the skylark, the Savannah sparrow, and several

species of buntings and longspurs.7 In fact, it would be much

easier to describe the species which live isolated than to simply

name those species which join the autumnal societies of young

birds -- not for hunting or nesting purposes, but simply to enjoy

life in society and to spend their time in plays and sports,

after having given a few hours every day to find their daily


And, finally, we have that immense display of mutual aid

among birds-their migrations -- which I dare not even enter upon

in this place. Sufficient to say that birds which have lived for

months in small bands scattered over a wide territory gather in

thousands; they come together at a given place, for several days

in succession, before they start, and they evidently discuss the

particulars of the journey. Some species will indulge every

afternoon in flights preparatory to the long passage. All wait

for their tardy congeners, and finally they start in a certain

well chosen direction -- a fruit of accumulated collective

experience -- the strongest flying at the head of the band, and

relieving one another in that difficult task. They cross the seas

in large bands consisting of both big and small birds, and when

they return next spring they repair to the same spot, and, in

most cases, each of them takes possession of the very same nest

which it had built or repaired the previous year.8

This subject is so vast, and yet so imperfectly studied; it

offers so many striking illustrations of mutual-aid habits,

subsidiary to the main fact of migration -- each of which would,

however, require a special study -- that I must refrain from

entering here into more details. I can only cursorily refer to

the numerous and animated gatherings of birds which take place,

always on the same spot, before they begin their long journeys

north or south, as also those which one sees in the north, after

the birds have arrived at their breeding-places on the Yenisei or

in the northern counties of England. For many days in succession

-- sometimes one month -- they will come together every morning

for one hour, before flying in search of food -- perhaps

discussing the spot where they are going to build their

nests.9 And if, during the migration, their columns are

overtaken by a storm, birds of the most different species will be

brought together by common misfortune. The birds which are not

exactly migratory, but slowly move northwards and southwards with

the seasons, also perform these peregrinations in flocks. So far

from migrating isolately, in order to secure for each separate

individual the advantages of better food or shelter which are to

be found in another district -- they always wait for each other,

and gather in flocks, before they move north or south, in

accordance with the season.10

Going now over to mammals, the first thing which strikes us

is the overwhelming numerical predominance of social species over

those few carnivores which do not associate. The plateaus, the

Alpine tracts, and the Steppes of the Old and New World are

stocked with herds of deer, antelopes, gazelles, fallow deer,

buffaloes, wild goats and sheep, all of which are sociable

animals. When the Europeans came to settle in America, they found

it so densely peopled with buffaloes, that pioneers had to stop

their advance when a column of migrating buffaloes came to cross

the route they followed; the march past of the dense column

lasting sometimes for two and three days. And when the Russians

took possession of Siberia they found it so densely peopled with

deer, antelopes, squirrels, and other sociable animals, that the

very conquest of Siberia was nothing but a hunting expedition

which lasted for two hundred years; while the grass plains of

Eastern Africa are still covered with herds composed of zebra,

the hartebeest, and other antelopes.

Not long ago the small streams of Northern America and

Northern Siberia were peopled with colonies of beavers, and up to

the seventeenth century like colonies swarmed in Northern Russia.

The flat lands of the four great continents are still covered

with countless colonies of mice, ground-squirrels, marmots, and

other rodents. In the lower latitudes of Asia and Africa the

forests are still the abode of numerous families of elephants,

rhinoceroses, and numberless societies of monkeys. In the far

north the reindeer aggregate in numberless herds; while still

further north we find the herds of the musk-oxen and numberless

bands of polar foxes. The coasts of the ocean are enlivened by

flocks of seals and morses; its waters, by shoals of sociable

cetaceans; and even in the depths of the great plateau of Central

Asia we find herds of wild horses, wild donkeys, wild camels, and

wild sheep. All these mammals live in societies and nations

sometimes numbering hundreds of thousands of individuals,

although now, after three centuries of gunpowder civilization, we

find but the d?bris of the immense aggregations of old. How

trifling, in comparison with them, are the numbers of the

carnivores! And how false, therefore, is the view of those who

speak of the animal world as if nothing were to be seen in it but

lions and hyenas plunging their bleeding teeth into the flesh of

their victims! One might as well imagine that the whole of human

life is nothing but a succession of war massacres.

Association and mutual aid are the rule with mammals. We find

social habits even among the carnivores, and we can only name the

cat tribe (lions, tigers, leopards, etc.) as a division the

members of which decidedly prefer isolation to society, and are

but seldom met with even in small groups. And yet, even among

lions "this is a very common practice to hunt in company."11

The two tribes of the civets (Viverridae) and the weasels

(Mustelidae) might also be characterized by their isolated life,

but it is a fact that during the last century the common weasel

was more sociable than it is now; it was seen then in larger

groups in Scotland and in the Unterwalden canton of Switzerland.

As to the great tribe of the dogs, it is eminently sociable, and

association for hunting purposes may be considered as eminently

characteristic of its numerous species. It is well known, in

fact, that wolves gather in packs for hunting, and Tschudi left

an excellent description of how they draw up in a half-circle,

surround a cow which is grazing on a mountain slope, and then,

suddenly appearing with a loud barking, make it roll in the

abyss.12 Audubon, in the thirties, also saw the Labrador

wolves hunting in packs, and one pack following a man to his

cabin, and killing the dogs. During severe winters the packs of

wolves grow so numerous as to become a danger for human

settlements, as was the case in France some five-and-forty years

ago. In the Russian Steppes they never attack the horses

otherwise than in packs; and yet they have to sustain bitter

fights, during which the horses (according to Kohl's testimony)

sometimes assume offensive warfare, and in such cases, if the

wolves do not retreat promptly, they run the risk of being

surrounded by the horses and killed by their hoofs. The

prairie-wolves (Canis latrans) are known to associate in bands of

from twenty to thirty individuals when they chase a buffalo

occasionally separated from its herd.13 Jackals, which are

most courageous and may be considered as one of the most

intelligent representatives of the dog tribe, always hunt in

packs; thus united, they have no fear of the bigger

carnivores.14 As to the wild dogs of Asia (the Kholzuns, or

Dholes), Williamson saw their large packs attacking all larger

animals save elephants and rhinoceroses, and overpowering bears

and tigers. Hyenas always live in societies and hunt in packs,

and the hunting organizations of the painted lycaons are highly

praised by Cumming. Nay, even foxes, which, as a rule, live

isolated in our civilized countries, have been seen combining for

hunting purposes.15 As to the polar fox, it is -- or rather

was in Steller's time -- one of the most sociable animals; and

when one reads Steller's description of the war that was waged by

Behring's unfortunate crew against these intelligent small

animals, one does not know what to wonder at most: the

extraordinary intelligence of the foxes and the mutual aid they

displayed in digging out food concealed under cairns, or stored

upon a pillar (one fox would climb on its top and throw the food

to its comrades beneath), or the cruelty of man, driven to

despair by the numerous packs of foxes. Even some bears live in

societies where they are not disturbed by man. Thus Steller saw

the black bear of Kamtchatka in numerous packs, and the polar

bears are occasionally found in small groups. Even the

unintelligent insectivores do not always disdain


However, it is especially with the rodents, the ungulata, and

the ruminants that we find a highly developed practice of mutual

aid. The squirrels are individualist to a great extent. Each of

them builds its own comfortable nest, and accumulates its own

provision. Their inclinations are towards family life, and Brehm

found that a family of squirrels is never so happy as when the

two broods of the same year can join together with their parents

in a remote corner of a forest. And yet they maintain social

relations. The inhabitants of the separate nests remain in a

close intercourse, and when the pine-cones become rare in the

forest they inhabit, they emigrate in bands. As to the black

squirrels of the Far West, they are eminently sociable. Apart

from the few hours given every day to foraging, they spend their

lives in playing in numerous parties. And when they multiply too

rapidly in a region, they assemble in bands, almost as numerous

as those of locusts, and move southwards, devastating the

forests, the fields, and the gardens; while foxes, polecats,

falcons, and nocturnal birds of prey follow their thick columns

and live upon the individuals remaining behind. The

ground-squirrel -- a closely-akin genus -- is still more

sociable. It is given to hoarding, and stores up in its

subterranean halls large amounts of edible roots and nuts,

usually plundered by man in the autumn. According to some

observers, it must know something of the joys of a miser. And yet

it remains sociable. It always lives in large villages, and

Audubon, who opened some dwellings of the hackee in the winter,

found several individuals in the same apartment; they must have

stored it with common efforts.

The large tribe, of the marmots, which includes the three

large genuses of Arctomys, Cynomys, and Spermophilus, is still

more sociable and still more intelligent. They also prefer having

each one its own dwelling; but they live in big villages. That

terrible enemy of the crops of South Russia -- the souslik -- of

which some ten millions are exterminated every year by man alone,

lives in numberless colonies; and while the Russian provincial

assemblies gravely discuss the means of getting rid of this enemy

of society, it enjoys life in its thousands in the most joyful

way. Their play is so charming that no observer could refrain

from paying them a tribute of praise, and from mentioning the

melodious concerts arising from the sharp whistlings of the males

and the melancholic whistlings of the females, before -- suddenly

returning to his citizen's duties -- he begins inventing the most

diabolic means for the extermination of the little robbers. All

kinds of rapacious birds and beasts of prey having proved

powerless, the last word of science in this warfare is the

inoculation of cholera! The villages of the prairie-dogs in

America are one of the loveliest sights. As far as the eye can

embrace the prairie, it sees heaps of earth, and on each of them

a prairie-dog stands, engaged in a lively conversation with its

neighbours by means of short barkings. As soon as the approach of

man is signalled, all plunge in a moment into their dwellings;

all have disappeared as by enchantment. But if the danger is

over, the little creatures soon reappear. Whole families come out

of their galleries and indulge in play. The young ones scratch

one another, they worry one another, and display their

gracefulness while standing upright, and in the meantime the old

ones keep watch. They go visiting one another, and the beaten

footpaths which connect all their heaps testify to the frequency

of the visitations. In short, the best naturalists have written

some of their best pages in describing the associations of the

prairie-dogs of America, the marmots of the Old World, and the

polar marmots of the Alpine regions. And yet, I must make, as

regards the marmots, the same remark as I have made when speaking

of the bees. They have maintained their fighting instincts, and

these instincts reappear in captivity. But in their big

associations, in the face of free Nature, the unsociable

instincts have no opportunity to develop, and the general result

is peace and harmony.

Even such harsh animals as the rats, which continually fight

in our cellars, are sufficiently intelligent not to quarrel when

they plunder our larders, but to aid one another in their

plundering expeditions and migrations, and even to feed their

invalids. As to the beaver-rats or musk-rats of Canada, they are

extremely sociable. Audubon could not but admire "their peaceful

communities, which require only being left in peace to enjoy

happiness." Like all sociable animals, they are lively and

playful, they easily combine with other species, and they have

attained a very high degree of intellectual development. In their

villages, always disposed on the shores of lakes and rivers, they

take into account the changing level of water; their domeshaped

houses, which are built of beaten clay interwoven with reeds,

have separate corners for organic refuse, and their halls are

well carpeted at winter time; they are warm, and, nevertheless,

well ventilated. As to the beavers, which are endowed, as known,

with a most sympathetic character, their astounding dams and

villages, in which generations live and die without knowing of

any enemies but the otter and man, so wonderfully illustrate what

mutual aid can achieve for the security of the species, the

development of social habits, and the evolution of intelligence,

that they are familiar to all interested in animal life. Let me

only remark that with the beavers, the muskrats, and some other

rodents, we already find the feature which will also be

distinctive of human communities -- that is, work in common.

I pass in silence the two large families which include the

jerboa, the chinchilla, the biscacha, and the tushkan, or

underground hare of South Russia, though all these small rodents

might be taken as excellent illustrations of the pleasures

derived by animals from social life.17 Precisely, the

pleasures; because it is extremely difficult to say what brings

animals together -- the needs of mutual protection, or simply the

pleasure of feeling surrounded by their congeners. At any rate,

our common hares, which do not gather in societies for life in

common, and which are not even endowed with intense parental

feelings, cannot live without coming together for play. Dietrich

de Winckell, who is considered to be among the best acquainted

with the habits of hares, describes them as passionate players,

becoming so intoxicated by their play that a hare has been known

to take an approaching fox for a playmate.18 As to the rabbit,

it lives in societies, and its family life is entirely built upon

the image of the old patriarchal family; the young ones being

kept in absolute obedience to the father and even the

grandfather.19 And here we have the example of two very

closely-allied species which cannot bear each other -- not

because they live upon nearly the same food, as like cases are

too often explained, but most probably because the passionate,

eminently-individualist hare cannot make friends with that

placid, quiet, and submissive creature, the rabbit. Their tempers

are too widely different not to be an obstacle to friendship.

Life in societies is again the rule with the large family of

horses, which includes the wild horses and donkeys of Asia, the

zebras, the mustangs, the cimarrones of the Pampas, and the

half-wild horses of Mongolia and Siberia. They all live in

numerous associations made up of many studs, each of which

consists of a number of mares under the leadership of a male.

These numberless inhabitants of the Old and the New World, badly

organized on the whole for resisting both their numerous enemies

and the adverse conditions of climate, would soon have

disappeared from the surface of the earth were it not for their

sociable spirit. When a beast of prey approaches them, several

studs unite at once; they repulse the beast and sometimes chase

it: and neither the wolf nor the bear, not even the lion, can

capture a horse or even a zebra as long as they are not detached

from the herd. When a drought is burning the grass in the

prairies, they gather in herds of sometimes 10,000 individuals

strong, and migrate. And when a snow-storm rages in the Steppes,

each stud keeps close together, and repairs to a protected

ravine. But if confidence disappears, or the group has been

seized by panic, and disperses, the horses perish and the

survivors are found after the storm half dying from fatigue.

Union is their chief arm in the struggle for life, and man is

their chief enemy. Before his increasing numbers the ancestors of

our domestic horse (the Equus Przewalskii, so named by Polyakoff)

have preferred to retire to the wildest and least accessible

plateaus on the outskirts of Thibet, where they continue to live,

surrounded by carnivores, under a climate as bad as that of the

Arctic regions, but in a region inaccessible to man.20

Many striking illustrations of social life could be taken

from the life of the reindeer, and especially of that large

division of ruminants which might include the roebucks, the

fallow deer, the antelopes, the gazelles, the ibex, and, in fact,

the whole of the three numerous families of the Antelopides, the

Caprides, and the Ovides. Their watchfulness over the safety of

their herds against attacks of carnivores; the anxiety displayed

by all individuals in a herd of chamois as long as all of them

have not cleared a difficult passage over rocky cliffs. the

adoption of orphans; the despair of the gazelle whose mate, or

even comrade of the same sex, has been killed; the plays of the

youngsters, and many other features, could be mentioned. But

perhaps the most striking illustration of mutual support is given

by the occasional migrations of fallow deer, such as I saw once

on the Amur. When I crossed the high plateau and its border

ridge, the Great Khingan, on my way from Transbaikalia to

Merghen, and further travelled over the high prairies on my way

to the Amur, I could ascertain how thinly-peopled with fallow

deer these mostly uninhabited regions are.21 Two years later I

was travelling up the Amur, and by the end of October reached the

lower end of that picturesque gorge which the Amur pierces in the

Dousse-alin (Little Khingan) before it enters the lowlands where

it joins the Sungari. I found the Cossacks in the villages of

that gorge in the greatest excitement, because thousands and

thousands of fallow deer were crossing the Amur where it is

narrowest, in order to reach the lowlands. For several days in

succession, upon a length of some forty miles up the river, the

Cossacks were butchering the deer as they crossed the Amur, in

which already floated a good deal of ice. Thousands were killed

every day, and the exodus nevertheless continued. Like migrations

were never seen either before or since, and this one must have

been called for by an early and heavy snow-fall in the Great

Khingan, which compelled the deer to make a desperate attempt at

reaching the lowlands in the east of the Dousse mountains.

Indeed, a few days later the Dousse-alin was also buried under

snow two or three feet deep. Now, when one imagines the immense

territory (almost as big as Great Britain) from which the

scattered groups of deer must have gathered for a migration which

was undertaken under the pressure of exceptional circumstances,

and realizes the difficulties which had to be overcome before all

the deer came to the common idea of crossing the Amur further

south, where it is narrowest, one cannot but deeply admire the

amount of sociability displayed by these intelligent animals. The

fact is not the less striking if we remember that the buffaloes

of North America displayed the same powers of combination. One

saw them grazing in great numbers in the plains, but these

numbers were made up by an infinity of small groups which never

mixed together. And yet, when necessity arose, all groups,

however scattered over an immense territory, came together and

made up those immense columns, numbering hundreds of thousands of

individuals, which I mentioned on a preceding page.

I also ought to say a few words at least about the "compound

families" of the elephants, their mutual attachment, their

deliberate ways in posting sentries, and the feelings of sympathy

developed by such a life of close mutual support.22 I might

mention the sociable feelings of those disreputable creatures the

wild boars, and find a word of praise for their powers of

association in the case of an attack by a beast of prey.23 The

hippopotamus and the rhinoceros, too, would occupy a place in a

work devoted to animal sociability. Several striking pages might

be given to the sociability and mutual attachment of the seals

and the walruses; and finally, one might mention the most

excellent feelings existing among the sociable cetaceans. But I

have to say yet a few words about the societies of monkeys, which

acquire an additional interest from their being the link which

will bring us to the societies of primitive men.

It is hardly needful to say that those mammals, which stand

at the very top of the animal world and most approach man by

their structure and intelligence, are eminently sociable.

evidently we must be prepared to meet with all varieties of

character and habits in so great a division of the animal kingdom

which includes hundreds of species. But, all things considered,

it must be said that sociability, action in common, mutual

protection, and a high development of those feelings which are

the necessary outcome of social life, are characteristic of most

monkeys and apes. From the smallest species to the biggest ones,

sociability is a rule to which we know but a few exceptions. The

nocturnal apes prefer isolated life; the capuchins (Cebus

capucinus), the monos, and the howling monkeys live but in small

families; and the orang-outans have never been seen by A.R.

Wallace otherwise than either solitary or in very small groups of

three or four individuals, while the gorillas seem never to join

in bands. But all the remainder of the monkey tribe -- the

chimpanzees, the sajous, the sakis, the mandrills, the baboons,

and so on -- are sociable in the highest degree. They live in

great bands, and even join with other species than their own.

Most of them become quite unhappy when solitary. The cries of

distress of each one of the band immediately bring together the

whole of the band, and they boldly repulse the attacks of most

carnivores and birds of prey. Even eagles do not dare attack

them. They plunder our fields always in bands -- the old ones

taking care for the safety of the commonwealth. The little

tee-tees, whose childish sweet faces so much struck Humboldt,

embrace and protect one another when it rains, rolling their

tails over the necks of their shivering comrades. Several species

display the greatest solicitude for their wounded, and do not

abandon a wounded comrade during a retreat till they have

ascertained that it is dead and that they are helpless to restore

it to life. Thus James Forbes narrated in his Oriental Memoirs a

fact of such resistance in reclaiming from his hunting party the

dead body of a female monkey that one fully understands why "the

witnesses of this extraordinary scene resolved never again to

fire at one of the monkey race."24 In some species several

individuals will combine to overturn a stone in order to search

for ants' eggs under it. The hamadryas not only post sentries,

but have been seen making a chain for the transmission of the

spoil to a safe place; and their courage is well known. Brehm's

description of the regular fight which his caravan had to sustain

before the hamadryas would let it resume its journey in the

valley of the Mensa, in Abyssinia, has become classical.25 The

playfulness of the tailed apes and the mutual attachment which

reigns in the families of chimpanzees also are familiar to the

general reader. And if we find among the highest apes two

species, the orang-outan and the gorilla, which are not sociable,

we must remember that both -- limited as they are to very small

areas, the one in the heart of Africa, and the other in the two

islands of Borneo and Sumatra have all the appearance of being

the last remnants of formerly much more numerous species. The

gorilla at least seems to have been sociable in olden times, if

the apes mentioned in the Periplus really were gorillas.

We thus see, even from the above brief review, that life in

societies is no exception in the animal world; it is the rule,

the law of Nature, and it reaches its fullest development with

the higher vertebrates. Those species which live solitary, or in

small families only, are relatively few, and their numbers are

limited. Nay, it appears very probable that, apart from a few

exceptions, those birds and mammals which are not gregarious now,

were living in societies before man multiplied on the earth and

waged a permanent war against them, or destroyed the sources from

which they formerly derived food. "On ne s'associe pas pour

mourir," was the sound remark of Espinas; and Houzeau, who knew

the animal world of some parts of America when it was not yet

affected by man, wrote to the same effect.

Association is found in the animal world at all degrees of

evolution; and, according to the grand idea of Herbert Spencer,

so brilliantly developed in Perrier's Colonies Animales, colonies

are at the very origin of evolution in the animal kingdom. But,

in proportion as we ascend the scale of evolution, we see

association growing more and more conscious. It loses its purely

physical character, it ceases to be simply instinctive, it

becomes reasoned. With the higher vertebrates it is periodical,

or is resorted to for the satisfaction of a given want --

propagation of the species, migration, hunting, or mutual

defence. It even becomes occasional, when birds associate against

a robber, or mammals combine, under the pressure of exceptional

circumstances, to emigrate. In this last case, it becomes a

voluntary deviation from habitual moods of life. The combination

sometimes appears in two or more degrees -- the family first,

then the group, and finally the association of groups, habitually

scattered, but uniting in case of need, as we saw it with the

bisons and other ruminants. It also takes higher forms,

guaranteeing more independence to the individual without

depriving it of the benefits of social life. With most rodents

the individual has its own dwelling, which it can retire to when

it prefers being left alone; but the dwellings are laid out in

villages and cities, so as to guarantee to all inhabitants the

benefits and joys of social life. And finally, in several

species, such as rats, marmots, hares, etc., sociable life is

maintained notwithstanding the quarrelsome or otherwise egotistic

inclinations of the isolated individual. Thus it is not imposed,

as is the case with ants and bees, by the very physiological

structure of the individuals; it is cultivated for the benefits

of mutual aid, or for the sake of its pleasures. And this, of

course, appears with all possible gradations and with the

greatest variety of individual and specific characters -- the

very variety of aspects taken by social life being a consequence,

and for us a further proof, of its generality.26

Sociability -- that is, the need of the animal of associating

with its like -- the love of society for society's sake, combined

with the "joy of life," only now begins to receive due attention

from the zoologists.27 We know at the present time that all

animals, beginning with the ants, going on to the birds, and

ending with the highest mammals, are fond of plays, wrestling,

running after each other, trying to capture each other, teasing

each other, and so on. And while many plays are, so to speak, a

school for the proper behaviour of the young in mature life,

there are others, which, apart from their utilitarian purposes,

are, together with dancing and singing, mere manifestations of an

excess of forces -- "the joy of life," and a desire to

communicate in some way or another with other individuals of the

same or of other species -- in short, a manifestation of

sociability proper, which is a distinctive feature of all the

animal world.28 Whether the feeling be fear, experienced at

the appearance of a bird of prey, or "a fit of gladness" which

bursts out when the animals are in good health and especially

when young, or merely the desire of giving play to an excess of

impressions and of vital power -- the necessity of communicating

impressions, of playing, of chattering, or of simply feeling the

proximity of other kindred living beings pervades Nature, and is,

as much as any other physiological function, a distinctive

feature of life and impressionability. This need takes a higher

development and attains a more beautiful expression in mammals,

especially amidst their young, and still more among the birds;

but it pervades all Nature, and has been fully observed by the

best naturalists, including Pierre Huber, even amongst the ants,

and it is evidently the same instinct which brings together the

big columns of butterflies which have been referred to already.

The habit of coming together for dancing and of decorating

the places where the birds habitually perform their dances is, of

course, well known from the pages that Darwin gave to this

subject in The Descent of Man (ch. xiii). Visitors of the London

Zoological Gardens also know the bower of the satin bower-bird.

But this habit of dancing seems to be much more widely spread

than was formerly believed, and Mr. W. Hudson gives in his

master-work on La Plata the most interesting description, which

must be read in the original, of complicated dances, performed by

quite a number of birds: rails, jacanas, lapwings, and so on.

The habit of singing in concert, which exists in several

species of birds, belongs to the same category of social

instincts. It is most strikingly developed with the chakar

(Chauna chavarris), to which the English have given the most

unimaginative misnomer of "crested screamer." These birds

sometimes assemble in immense flocks, and in such cases they

frequently sing all in concert. W.H. Hudson found them once in

countless numbers, ranged all round a pampas lake in well-defined

flocks, of about 500 birds in each flock.

"Presently," he writes, "one flock near me began singing, and

continued their powerful chant for three or four minutes; when

they ceased the next flock took up the strains, and after it the

next, and so on, until once more the notes of the flocks on the

opposite shore came floating strong and clear across the water --

then passed away, growing fainter and fainter, until once more

the sound approached me travelling round to my side again."

On another occasion the same writer saw a whole plain covered

with an endless flock of chakars, not in close order, but

scattered in pairs and small groups. About nine o'clock in the

evening, "suddenly the entire multitude of birds covering the

marsh for miles around burst forth in a tremendous evening

song.... It was a concert well worth riding a hundred miles to

hear."29 It may be added that like all sociable animals, the

chakar easily becomes tame and grows very attached to man." They

are mild-tempered birds, and very rarely quarrel" -- we are told

-- although they are well provided with formidable weapons. Life

in societies renders these weapons useless.

That life in societies is the most powerful weapon in the

struggle for life, taken in its widest sense, has been

illustrated by several examples on the foregoing pages, and could

be illustrated by any amount of evidence, if further evidence

were required. Life in societies enables the feeblest insects,

the feeblest birds, and the feeblest mammals to resist, or to

protect themselves from, the most terrible birds and beasts of

prey; it permits longevity; it enables the species to rear its

progeny with the least waste of energy and to maintain its

numbers albeit a very slow birth-rate; it enables the gregarious

animals to migrate in search of new abodes. Therefore, while

fully admitting that force, swiftness, protective colours,

cunningness, and endurance to hunger and cold, which are

mentioned by Darwin and Wallace, are so many qualities making the

individual, or the species, the fittest under certain

circumstances, we maintain that under any circumstances

sociability is the greatest advantage in the struggle for life.

Those species which willingly or unwillingly abandon it are

doomed to decay; while those animals which know best how to

combine, have the greatest chances of survival and of further

evolution, although they may be inferior to others in each of the

faculties enumerated by Darwin and Wallace, save the intellectual

faculty. The highest vertebrates, and especially mankind, are the

best proof of this assertion. As to the intellectual faculty,

while every Darwinist will agree with Darwin that it is the most

powerful arm in the struggle for life, and the most powerful

factor of further evolution, he also will admit that intelligence

is an eminently social faculty. Language, imitation, and

accumulated experience are so many elements of growing

intelligence of which the unsociable animal is deprived.

Therefore we find, at the top of each class of animals, the ants,

the parrots, and the monkeys, all combining the greatest

sociability with the highest development of intelligence. The

fittest are thus the most sociable animals, and sociability

appears as the chief factor of evolution, both directly, by

securing the well-being of the species while diminishing the

waste of energy, and indirectly, by favouring the growth of


Moreover, it is evident that life in societies would be

utterly impossible without a corresponding development of social

feelings, and, especially, of a certain collective sense of

justice growing to become a habit. If every individual were

constantly abusing its personal advantages without the others

interfering in favour of the wronged, no society -- life would be

possible. And feelings of justice develop, more or less, with all

gregarious animals. Whatever the distance from which the swallows

or the cranes come, each one returns to the nest it has built or

repaired last year. If a lazy sparrow intends appropriating the

nest which a comrade is building, or even steals from it a few

sprays of straw, the group interferes against the lazy comrade;

and it is evident that without such interference being the rule,

no nesting associations of birds could exist. Separate groups of

penguins have separate resting-places and separate fishing

abodes, and do not fight for them. The droves of cattle in

Australia have particular spots to which each group repairs to

rest, and from which it never deviates; and so on.30 We have

any numbers of direct observations of the peace that prevails in

the nesting associations of birds, the villages of the rodents,

and the herds of grass-eaters; while, on the other side, we know

of few sociable animals which so continually quarrel as the rats

in our cellars do, or as the morses, which fight for the

possession of a sunny place on the shore. Sociability thus puts a

limit to physical struggle, and leaves room for the development

of better moral feelings. The high development of parental love

in all classes of animals, even with lions and tigers, is

generally known. As to the young birds and mammals whom we

continually see associating, sympathy -- not love -- attains a

further development in their associations. Leaving aside the

really touching facts of mutual attachment and compassion which

have been recorded as regards domesticated animals and with

animals kept in captivity, we have a number of well certified

facts of compassion between wild animals at liberty. Max Perty

and L. B?chner have given a number of such facts.31 J.C.

Wood's narrative of a weasel which came to pick up and to carry

away an injured comrade enjoys a well-merited popularity.32 So

also the observation of Captain Stansbury on his journey to Utah

which is quoted by Darwin; he saw a blind pelican which was fed,

and well fed, by other pelicans upon fishes which had to be

brought from a distance of thirty miles.33 And when a herd of

vicunas was hotly pursued by hunters, H.A. Weddell saw more than

once during his journey to Bolivia and Peru, the strong males

covering the retreat of the herd and lagging behind in order to

protect the retreat. As to facts of compassion with wounded

comrades, they are continually mentioned by all field zoologists.

Such facts are quite natural. Compassion is a necessary outcome

of social life. But compassion also means a considerable advance

in general intelligence and sensibility. It is the first step

towards the development of higher moral sentiments. It is, in its

turn, a powerful factor of further evolution.

If the views developed on the preceding pages are correct,

the question necessarily arises, in how far are they consistent

with the theory of struggle for life as it has been developed by

Darwin, Wallace, and their followers? and I will now briefly

answer this important question. First of all, no naturalist will

doubt that the idea of a struggle for life carried on through

organic nature is the greatest generalization of our century.

Life is struggle; and in that struggle the fittest survive. But

the answers to the questions, "By which arms is this struggle

chiefly carried on?" and "Who are the fittest in the struggle?"

will widely differ according to the importance given to the two

different aspects of the struggle: the direct one, for food and

safety among separate individuals, and the struggle which Darwin

described as "metaphorical" -- the struggle, very often

collective, against adverse circumstances. No one will deny that

there is, within each species, a certain amount of real

competition for food -- at least, at certain periods. But the

question is, whether competition is carried on to the extent

admitted by Darwin, or even by Wallace; and whether this

competition has played, in the evolution of the animal kingdom,

the part assigned to it.

The idea which permeates Darwin's work is certainly one of

real competition going on within each animal group for food,

safety, and possibility of leaving an offspring. He often speaks

of regions being stocked with animal life to their full capacity,

and from that overstocking he infers the necessity of

competition. But when we look in his work for real proofs of that

competition, we must confess that we do not find them

sufficiently convincing. If we refer to the paragraph entitled

"Struggle for Life most severe between Individuals and Varieties

of the same Species," we find in it none of that wealth of proofs

and illustrations which we are accustomed to find in whatever

Darwin wrote. The struggle between individuals of the same

species is not illustrated under that heading by even one single

instance: it is taken as granted; and the competition between

closely-allied animal species is illustrated by but five

examples, out of which one, at least (relating to the two species

of thrushes), now proves to be doubtful.34 But when we look

for more details in order to ascertain how far the decrease of

one species was really occasioned by the increase of the other

species, Darwin, with his usual fairness, tells us:

"We can dimly see why the competition should be most severe

between allied forms which fill nearly the same place in nature;

but probably in no case could we precisely say why one species

has been victorious over another in the great battle of life."

As to Wallace, who quotes the same facts under a

slightly-modified heading ("Struggle for Life between

closely-allied Animals and Plants often most severe"), he makes

the following remark (italics are mine), which gives quite

another aspect to the facts above quoted. He says:

"In some cases, no doubt, there is actual war between the

two, the stronger killing the weaker. but this is by no means

necessary, and there may be cases in which the weaker species,

physically, may prevail by its power of more rapid

multiplication, its better withstanding vicissitudes of climate,

or its greater cunning in escaping the attacks of common


In such cases what is described as competition may be no

competition at all. One species succumbs, not because it is

exterminated or starved out by the other species, but because it

does not well accommodate itself to new conditions, which the

other does. The term "struggle for life" is again used in its

metaphorical sense, and may have no other. As to the real

competition between individuals of the same species, which is

illustrated in another place by the cattle of South America

during a period of drought, its value is impaired by its being

taken from among domesticated animals. Bisons emigrate in like

circumstances in order to avoid competition. However severe the

struggle between plants -- and this is amply proved -- we cannot

but repeat Wallace's remark to the effect that "plants live where

they can," while animals have, to a great extent, the power of

choice of their abode. So that we again are asking ourselves, To

what extent does competition really exist within each animal

species? Upon what is the assumption based? The same remark must

be made concerning the indirect argument in favour of a severe

competition and struggle for life within each species, which may

be derived from the "extermination of transitional varieties," so

often mentioned by Darwin. It is known that for a long time

Darwin was worried by the difficulty which he saw in the absence

of a long chain of intermediate forms between closely-allied

species, and that he found the solution of this difficulty in the

supposed extermination of the intermediate forms.35 However,

an attentive reading of the different chapters in which Darwin

and Wallace speak of this subject soon brings one to the

conclusion that the word "extermination" does not mean real

extermination; the same remark which Darwin made concerning his

expression: "struggle for existence," evidently applies to the

word "extermination" as well. It can by no means be understood in

its direct sense, but must be taken "in its metaphoric sense." If

we start from the supposition that a given area is stocked with

animals to its fullest capacity, and that a keen competition for

the sheer means of existence is consequently going on between all

the inhabitants -- each animal being compelled to fight against

all its congeners in order to get its daily food -- then the

appearance of a new and successful variety would certainly mean

in many cases (though not always) the appearance of individuals

which are enabled to seize more than their fair share of the

means of existence; and the result would be that those

individuals would starve both the parental form which does not

possess the new variation and the intermediate forms which do not

possess it in the same degree. It may be that at the outset,

Darwin understood the appearance of new varieties under this

aspect; at least, the frequent use of the word "extermination"

conveys such an impression. But both he and Wallace knew Nature

too well not to perceive that this is by no means the only

possible and necessary course of affairs.

If the physical and the biological conditions of a given

area, the extension of the area occupied by a given species, and

the habits of all the members of the latter remained unchanged --

then the sudden appearance of a new variety might mean the

starving out and the extermination of all the individuals which

were not endowed in a sufficient degree with the new feature by

which the new variety is characterized. But such a combination of

conditions is precisely what we do not see in Nature. Each

species is continually tending to enlarge its abode; migration to

new abodes is the rule with the slow snail, as with the swift

bird; physical changes are continually going on in every given

area; and new varieties among animals consist in an immense

number of cases-perhaps in the majority -- not in the growth of

new weapons for snatching the food from the mouth of its

congeners -- food is only one out of a hundred of various

conditions of existence -- but, as Wallace himself shows in a

charming paragraph on the "divergence of characters" (Darwinism,

p. 107), in forming new habits, moving to new abodes, and taking

to new sorts of food. In all such cases there will be no

extermination, even no competition -- the new adaptation being a

relief from competition, if it ever existed; and yet there will

be, after a time, an absence of intermediate links, in

consequence of a mere survival of those which are best fitted for

the new conditions -- as surely as under the hypothesis of

extermination of the parental form. It hardly need be added that

if we admit, with Spencer, all the Lamarckians, and Darwin

himself, the modifying influence of the surroundings upon the

species, there remains still less necessity for the extermination

of the intermediate forms.

The importance of migration and of the consequent isolation

of groups of animals, for the origin of new varieties and

ultimately of new species, which was indicated by Moritz Wagner,

was fully recognized by Darwin himself. Consequent researches

have only accentuated the importance of this factor, and they

have shown how the largeness of the area occupied by a given

species -- which Darwin considered with full reason so important

for the appearance of new varieties -- can be combined with the

isolation of parts of the species, in consequence of local

geological changes, or of local barriers. It would be impossible

to enter here into the discussion of this wide question, but a

few remarks will do to illustrate the combined action of these

agencies. It is known that portions of a given species will often

take to a new sort of food. The squirrels, for instance, when

there is a scarcity of cones in the larch forests, remove to the

fir-tree forests, and this change of food has certain well-known

physiological effects on the squirrels. If this change of habits

does not last -- if next year the cones are again plentiful in

the dark larch woods -- no new variety of squirrels will

evidently arise from this cause. But if part of the wide area

occupied by the squirrels begins to have its physical characters

altered -- in consequence of, let us say, a milder climate or

desiccation, which both bring about an increase of the pine

forests in proportion to the larch woods -- and if some other

conditions concur to induce the squirrels to dwell on the

outskirts of the desiccating region -- we shall have then a new

variety, i.e. an incipient new species of squirrels, without

there having been anything that would deserve the name of

extermination among the squirrels. A larger proportion of

squirrels of the new, better adapted variety would survive every

year, and the intermediate links would die in the course of time,

without having been starved out by Malthusian competitors. This

is exactly what we see going on during the great physical changes

which are accomplished over large areas in Central Asia, owing to

the desiccation which is going on there since the glacial period.

To take another example, it has been proved by geologists

that the present wild horse (Equus Przewalski) has slowly been

evolved during the later parts of the Tertiary and the Quaternary

period, but that during this succession of ages its ancestors

were not confined to some given, limited area of the globe. They

wandered over both the Old and New World, returning, in all

probability, after a time to the pastures which they had, in the

course of their migrations, formerly left.36 Consequently, if

we do not find now, in Asia, all the intermediate links between

the present wild horse and its Asiatic Post-Tertiary ancestors,

this does not mean at all that the intermediate links have been

exterminated. No such extermination has ever taken place. No

exceptional mortality may even have occurred among the ancestral

species: the individuals which belonged to intermediate varieties

and species have died in the usual course of events -- often

amidst plentiful food, and their remains were buried all over the


In short, if we carefully consider this matter, and,

carefully re-read what Darwin himself wrote upon this subject, we

see that if the word "extermination" be used at all in connection

with transitional varieties, it must be used in its metaphoric

sense. As to "competition," this expression, too, is continually

used by Darwin (see, for instance, the paragraph "On Extinction")

as an image, or as a way-of-speaking, rather than with the

intention of conveying the idea of a real competition between two

portions of the same species for the means of existence. At any

rate, the absence of intermediate forms is no argument in favour

of it.

In reality, the chief argument in favour of a keen

competition for the means of existence continually going on

within every animal species is -- to use Professor Geddes'

expression -- the "arithmetical argument" borrowed from Malthus.

But this argument does not prove it at all. We might as well

take a number of villages in South-East Russia, the inhabitants

of which enjoy plenty of food, but have no sanitary accommodation

of any kind; and seeing that for the last eighty years the

birth-rate was sixty in the thousand, while the population is now

what it was eighty years ago, we might conclude that there has

been a terrible competition between the inhabitants. But the

truth is that from year to year the population remained

stationary, for the simple reason that one-third of the new-born

died before reaching their sixth month of life; one-half died

within the next four years, and out of each hundred born, only

seventeen or so reached the age of twenty. The new-comers went

away before having grown to be competitors. It is evident that if

such is the case with men, it is still more the case with

animals. In the feathered world the destruction of the eggs goes

on on such a tremendous scale that eggs are the chief food of

several species in the early summer; not to, say a word of the

storms, the inundations which destroy nests by the million in

America, and the sudden changes of weather which are fatal to the

young mammals. Each storm, each inundation, each visit of a rat

to a bird's nest, each sudden change of temperature, take away

those competitors which appear so terrible in theory.

As to the facts of an extremely rapid increase of horses and

cattle in America, of pigs and rabbits in New Zealand, and even

of wild animals imported from Europe (where their numbers are

kept down by man, not by competition), they rather seem opposed

to the theory of over-population. If horses and cattle could so

rapidly multiply in America, it simply proved that, however

numberless the buffaloes and other ruminants were at that time in

the New World, its grass-eating population was far below what the

prairies could maintain. If millions of intruders have found

plenty of food without starving out the former population of the

prairies, we must rather conclude that the Europeans found a want

of grass-eaters in America, not an excess. And we have good

reasons to believe that want of animal population is the natural

state of things all over the world, with but a few temporary

exceptions to the rule. The actual numbers of animals in a given

region are determined, not by the highest feeding capacity of the

region, but by what it is every year under the most unfavourable

conditions. So that, for that reason alone, competition hardly

can be a normal condition. but other causes intervene as well to

cut, down the animal population below even that low standard. If

we take the horses and cattle which are grazing all the winter

through in the Steppes of Transbaikalia, we find them very lean

and exhausted at the end of the winter. But they grow exhausted

not because there is not enough food for all of them -- the grass

buried under a thin sheet of snow is everywhere in abundance --

but because of the difficulty of getting it from beneath the

snow, and this difficulty is the same for all horses alike.

Besides, days of glazed frost are common in early spring, and if

several such days come in succession the horses grow still more

exhausted. But then comes a snow-storm, which compels the already

weakened animals to remain without any food for several days, and

very great numbers of them die. The losses during the spring are

so severe that if the season has been more inclement than usual

they are even not repaired by the new breeds -- the more so as

all horses are exhausted, and the young foals are born in a

weaker condition. The numbers of horses and cattle thus always

remain beneath what they otherwise might be; all the year round

there is food for five or ten times as many animals, and yet

their population increases extremely slowly. But as soon as the

Buriate owner makes ever so small a provision of hay in the

steppe, and throws it open during days of glazed frost, or

heavier snow-fall, he immediately sees the increase of his herd.

Almost all free grass-eating animals and many rodents in Asia and

America being in very much the same conditions, we can safely say

that their numbers are not kept down by competition; that at no

time of the year they can struggle for food, and that if they

never reach anything approaching to over-population, the cause is

in the climate, not in competition.

The importance of natural checks to over-multiplication, and

especially their bearing upon the competition hypothesis, seems

never to have been taken into due account The checks, or rather

some of them, are mentioned, but their action is seldom studied

in detail. However, if we compare the action of the natural

checks with that of competition, we must recognize at once that

the latter sustains no comparison whatever with the other checks.

Thus, Mr. Bates mentions the really astounding numbers of winged

ants which are destroyed during their exodus. The dead or

half-dead bodies of the formica de fuego (Myrmica saevissima)

which had been blown into the river during a gale "were heaped in

a line an inch or two in height and breadth, the line continuing

without interruption for miles at the edge of the water."37

Myriads of ants are thus destroyed amidst a nature which might

support a hundred times as many ants as are actually living. Dr.

Altum, a German forester, who wrote a very interesting book about

animals injurious to our forests, also gives many facts showing

the immense importance of natural checks. He says, that a

succession of gales or cold and damp weather during the exodus of

the pine-moth (Bombyx pini) destroy it to incredible amounts, and

during the spring of 1871 all these moths disappeared at once,

probably killed by a succession of cold nights.38 Many like

examples relative to various insects could be quoted from various

parts of Europe. Dr. Altum also mentions the bird-enemies of the

pine-moth, and the immense amount of its eggs destroyed by foxes;

but he adds that the parasitic fungi which periodically infest it

are a far more terrible enemy than any bird, because they destroy

the moth over very large areas at once. As to various species of

mice (Mus sylvaticus, Arvicola arvalis, and A. agrestis), the

same author gives a long list of their enemies, but he remarks:

"However, the most terrible enemies of mice are not other

animals, but such sudden changes of weather as occur almost every

year." Alternations of frost and warm weather destroy them in

numberless quantities; "one single sudden change can reduce

thousands of mice to the number of a few individuals." On the

other side, a warm winter, or a winter which gradually steps in,

make them multiply in menacing proportions, notwithstanding every

enemy; such was the case in 1876 and 1877.39 Competition, in

the case of mice, thus appears a quite trifling factor when

compared with weather. Other facts to the same effect are also

given as regards squirrels.

As to birds, it is well known how they suffer from sudden

changes of weather. Late snow-storms are as destructive of

bird-life on the English moors, as they are in Siberia; and Ch.

Dixon saw the red grouse so pressed during some exceptionally

severe winters, that they quitted the moors in numbers, "and we

have then known them actually to be taken in the streets of

Sheffield. Persistent wet," he adds, "is almost as fatal to


On the other side, the contagious diseases which continually

visit most animal species destroy them in such numbers that the

losses often cannot be repaired for many years, even with the

most rapidly-multiply ing animals. Thus, some sixty years ago,

the sousliks suddenly disappeared in the neighbourhood of

Sarepta, in South-Eastern Russia, in consequence of some

epidemics; and for years no sousliks were seen in that

neighbourhood. It took many years before they became as numerous

as they formerly were.40 Like facts, all tending to reduce the

importance given to competition, could be produced in

numbers.41 Of course, it might be replied, in Darwin's words,

that nevertheless each organic being "at some period of its life,

during some season of the year, during each generation or at

intervals, has to struggle for life and to suffer great

destruction," and that the fittest survive during such periods of

hard struggle for life. But if the evolution of the animal world

were based exclusively, or even chiefly, upon the survival of the

fittest during periods of calamities; if natural selection were

limited in its action to periods of exceptional drought, or

sudden changes of temperature, or inundations, retrogression

would be the rule in the animal world. Those who survive a

famine, or a severe epidemic of cholera, or small-pox, or

diphtheria, such as we see them in uncivilized countries, are

neither the strongest, nor the healthiest, nor the most

intelligent. No progress could be based on those survivals -- the

less so as all survivors usually come out of the ordeal with an

impaired health, like the Transbaikalian horses just mentioned,

or the Arctic crews, or the garrison of a fortress which has been

compelled to live for a few months on half rations, and comes out

of its experience with a broken health, and subsequently shows a

quite abnormal mortality. All that natural selection can do in

times of calamities is to spare the individuals endowed with the

greatest endurance for privations of all kinds. So it does among

the Siberian horses and cattle. They are enduring; they can feed

upon the Polar birch in case of need; they resist cold and

hunger. But no Siberian horse is capable of carrying half the

weight which a European horse carries with ease; no Siberian cow

gives half the amount of milk given by a Jersey cow, and no

natives of uncivilized countries can bear a comparison with

Europeans. They may better endure hunger and cold, but their

physical force is very far below that of a well-fed European, and

their intellectual progress is despairingly slow. "Evil cannot be

productive of good," as Tchernyshevsky wrote in a remarkable

essay upon Darwinism.42

Happily enough, competition is not the rule either in the

animal world or in mankind. It is limited among animals to

exceptional periods, and natural selection finds better fields

for its activity. Better conditions are created by the

elimination of competition by means of mutual aid and mutual

Support.43 In the great struggle for life -- for the greatest

possible fulness and intensity of life with the least waste of

energy -- natural selection continually seeks out the ways

precisely for avoiding competition as much as possible. The ants

combine in nests and nations; they pile up their stores, they

rear their cattle -- and thus avoid competition; and natural

selection picks out of the ants' family the species which know

best how to avoid competition, with its unavoidably deleterious

consequences. Most of our birds slowly move southwards as the

winter comes, or gather in numberless societies and undertake

long journeys -- and thus avoid competition. Many rodents fall

asleep when the time comes that competition should set in; while

other rodents store food for the winter, and gather in large

villages for obtaining the necessary protection when at work. The

reindeer, when the lichens are dry in the interior of the

continent, migrate towards the sea. Buffaloes cross an immense

continent in order to find plenty of food. And the beavers, when

they grow numerous on a river, divide into two parties, and go,

the old ones down the river, and the young ones up the river and

avoid competition. And when animals can neither fall asleep, nor

migrate, nor lay in stores, nor themselves grow their food like

the ants, they do what the titmouse does, and what Wallace

(Darwinism, ch. v) has so charmingly described: they resort to

new kinds of food -- and thus, again, avoid competition.44

"Don't compete! -- competition is always injurious to the

species, and you have plenty of resources to avoid it!" That is

the tendency of nature, not always realized in full, but always

present. That is the watchword which comes to us from the bush,

the forest, the river, the ocean. "Therefore combine -- practise

mutual aid! That is the surest means for giving to each and to

all the greatest safety, the best guarantee of existence and

progress, bodily, intellectual, and moral." That is what Nature

teaches us; and that is what all those animals which have

attained the highest position in their respective classes have

done. That is also what man -- the most primitive man -- has been

doing; and that is why man has reached the position upon which we

stand now, as we shall see in the subsequent chapters devoted to

mutual aid in human societies.

1 Syevettsoff's Periodical Phenomena, p. 251.
2 Seyfferlitz, quoted by Brehm, iv. 760.
3 The Arctic Voyages of A.E. Nordenskj?ld, London, 1879, p. 135.
See also the powerful description of the St. Kilda islands by Mr.
Dixon (quoted by Seebohm), and nearly all books of Arctic travel.
5 See Appendix III.
5 Elliot Cou?s, in Bulletin U.S. Geol. Survey of Territories,
iv. No. 7, pp. 556, 579, etc. Among the gulls (Larus argentatus),
Polyakoff saw on a marsh in Northern Russia, that the nesting
grounds of a very great number of these birds were always
patrolled by one male, which warned the colony of the approach of
danger. All birds rose in such case and attacked the enemy with
great vigour. The females, which had five or six nests together
On each knoll of the marsh, kept a certain order in leaving their
nests in search of food. The fledglings, which otherwise are
extremely unprotected and easily become the prey of the rapacious
birds, were never left alone ("Family Habits among the Aquatic
Birds," in Proceedings of the Zool. Section of St. Petersburg
Soc. of Nat., Dec. 17, 1874).
6 Brehm Father, quoted by A. Brehm, iv. 34 seq. See also White's
Natural History of Selborne, Letter XI.
7 Dr. Cou?s, Birds of Dakota and Montana, in Bulletin U.S.
Survey of Territories, iv. No. 7.
8 It has often been intimated that larger birds may occasionally
transport some of the smaller birds when they cross together the
Mediterranean, but the fact still remains doubtful. On the other
side, it is certain that some smaller birds join the bigger ones
for migration. The fact has been noticed several times, and it
was recently confirmed by L. Buxbaum at Raunheim. He saw several
parties of cranes which had larks flying in the midst and on both
sides of their migratory columns (Der zoologische Garten, 1886,
p. 133).
9 H. Seebohm and Ch. Dixon both mention this habit.
10 The fact is well known to every field-naturalist, and with
reference to England several examples may be found in Charles
Dixon's Among the Birds in Northern Shires. The chaffinches
arrive during winter in vast flocks; and about the same time,
i.e. in November, come flocks of bramblings; redwings also
frequent the same places "in similar large companies," and so on
(pp. 165, 166).
11 S.W. Baker, Wild Beasts, etc., vol. i. p. 316.
12 Tschudi, Thierleben der Alpenwelt, p. 404.
13 Houzeau's Etudes, ii. 463.
14 For their hunting associations see Sir E. Tennant's Natural
History of Ceylon, quoted in Romanes's Animal Intelligence, p.
15 See Emil H?ter's letter in L. B?chner's Liebe.
16 See Appendix IV.
17 With regard to the viscacha it is very interesting to note
that these highly-sociable little animals not only live peaceably
together in each village, but that whole villages visit each
other at nights. Sociability is thus extended to the whole
species -- not only to a given society, or to a nation, as we saw
it with the ants. When the farmer destroys a viscacha-burrow, and
buries the inhabitants under a heap of earth, other viscachas --
we are told by Hudson -- "come from a distance to dig out those
that are buried alive" (l.c., p. 311). This is a widely-known
fact in La Plata, verified by the author.
18 Handbuch f?r J?ger und Jagdberechtigte, quoted by Brehm, ii.
19 Buffon's Histoire Naturelle.
20 In connection with the horses it is worthy of notice that the
quagga zebra, which never comes together with the dauw zebra,
nevertheless lives on excellent terms, not only with ostriches,
which are very good sentries, but also with gazelles, several
species of antelopes, and gnus. We thus have a case of mutual
dislike between the quagga and the dauw which cannot be explained
by competition for food. The fact that the quagga lives together
with ruminants feeding on the same grass as itself excludes that
hypothesis, and we must look for some incompatibility of
character, as in the case of the hare and the rabbit. Cf., among
others, Clive Phillips-Wolley's Big Game Shooting (Badminton
Library), which contains excellent illustrations of various
species living together in East Africa.
21 Our Tungus hunter, who was going to marry, and therefore was
prompted by the desire of getting as many furs as he possibly
could, was beating the hill-sides all day long on horseback in
search of deer. His efforts were not rewarded by even so much as
one fallow deer killed every day; and he was an excellent hunter.
22 According to Samuel W. Baker, elephants combine in larger
groups than the "compound family." "I have frequently observed,"
he wrote, "in the portion of Ceylon known as the Park Country,
the tracks of elephants in great numbers which have evidently
been considerable herds that have joined together in a general
retreat from a ground which they considered insecure" (Wild
Beasts and their Ways, vol. i. p. 102).
23 Pigs, attacked by wolves, do the same (Hudson, l.c.).
24 Romanes's Animal Intelligence, p. 472.
25 Brehm, i. 82; Darwin's Descent of Man, ch. iii. The Kozloff
expedition of 1899-1901 have also had to sustain in Northern
Thibet a similar fight.
26 The more strange was it to read in the previously-mentioned
article by Huxley the following paraphrase of a well-known
sentence of Rousseau: "The first men who substituted mutual peace
for that of mutual war -- whatever the motive which impelled them
to take that step -- created society" (Nineteenth Century, Feb.
1888, p. 165). Society has not been created by man; it is
anterior to man.
27 Such monographs as the chapter on "Music and Dancing in
Nature" which we have in Hudson's Naturalist on the La Plata, and
Carl Gross' Play of Animals, have already thrown a considerable
light upon an instinct which is absolutely universal in Nature.
28 Not only numerous species of birds possess the habit of
assembling together -- in many cases always at the same spot --
to indulge in antics and dancing performances, but W.H. Hudson's
experience is that nearly all mammals and birds ("probably there
are really no exceptions") indulge frequently in more or less
regular or set performances with or without sound, or composed of
sound exclusively (p. 264).
29 For the choruses of monkeys, see Brehm.
30 Haygarth, Bush Life in Australia, p. 58.
31 To quote but a few instances, a wounded badger was carried
away by another badger suddenly appearing on the scene; rats have
been seen feeding a blind couple (Seelenleben der Thiere, p. 64
seq.). Brehm himself saw two crows feeding in a hollow tree a
third crow which was wounded; its wound was several weeks old
(Hausfreund, 1874, 715; B?chner's Liebe, 203). Mr. Blyth saw
Indian crows feeding two or three blind comrades; and so on.
32 Man and Beast, p. 344.
33 L.H. Morgan, The American Beaver, 1868, p. 272; Descent of
Man, ch. iv.
34 One species of swallow is said to have caused the decrease of
another swallow species in North America; the recent increase of
the missel-thrush in Scotland has caused the decrease of the
song.thrush; the brown rat has taken the place of the black rat
in Europe; in Russia the small cockroach has everywhere driven
before it its greater congener; and in Australia the imported
hive-bee is rapidly exterminating the small stingless bee. Two
other cases, but relative to domesticated animals, are mentioned
in the preceding paragraph. While recalling these same facts,
A.R. Wallace remarks in a footnote relative to the Scottish
thrushes: "Prof. A. Newton, however, informs me that these
species do not interfere in the way here stated" (Darwinism, p.
34). As to the brown rat, it is known that, owing to its
amphibian habits, it usually stays in the lower parts of human
dwellings (low cellars, sewers, etc.), as also on the banks of
canals and rivers; it also undertakes distant migrations in
numberless bands. The black rat, on the contrary, prefers staying
in our dwellings themselves, under the floor, as well as in our
stables and barns. It thus is much more exposed to be
exterminated by man; and we cannot maintain, with any approach to
certainty, that the black rat is being either exterminated or
starved out by the brown rat and not by man.
35 "But it may be urged that when several closely-allied species
inhabit the same territory, we surely ought to find at the
present time many transitional forms.... By my theory these
allied species are descended from a common parent; and during the
process of modification, each has become adapted to the
conditions of life of its own region, and has supplanted and
exterminated its original parent-form and all the transitional
varieties between its past and present states" (Origin of
Species, 6th ed. p. 134); also p. 137, 296 (all paragraph "On
36 According to Madame Marie Pavloff, who has made a special
study of this subject, they migrated from Asia to Africa, stayed
there some time, and returned next to Asia. Whether this double
migration be confirmed or not, the fact of a former extension of
the ancestor of our horse over Asia, Africa, and America is
settled beyond doubt.
37 The Naturalist on the River Amazons, ii. 85, 95.
38 Dr. B. Altum, Waldbesch?digungen durch Thiere und Gegenmittel
(Berlin, 1889), pp. 207 seq.
39 Dr. B. Altum, ut supra, pp. 13 and 187.
40 A. Becker in the Bulletin de la Soci?t? des Naturalistes de
Moscou, 1889, p. 625.
41 See Appendix V.
42 Russkaya Mysl, Sept. 1888: "The Theory of Beneficency of
Struggle for Life, being a Preface to various Treatises on
Botanics, Zoology, and Human Life," by an Old Transformist.
43 "One of the most frequent modes in which Natural Selection
acts is, by adapting some individuals of a species to a somewhat
different mode of life, whereby they are able to seize
unappropriated places in Nature" (Origin of Species, p. 145) --
in other words, to avoid competition.
44 See Appendix VI.


3. Mutual aid among savages

Submitted by libcom on January 31, 2006

Supposed war of each against all. -- Tribal origin of human
society. -- Late appearance of the separate family. -- Bushmen
and Hottentots. -- Australians, Papuas. -- Eskimos, Aleoutes. --
Features of savage life difficult to understand for the European.
-- The Dayak's conception of justice. -- Common law.

The immense part played by mutual aid and mutual support in

the evolution of the animal world has been briefly analyzed in

the preceding chapters. We have now to cast a glance upon the

part played by the same agencies in the evolution of mankind. We

saw how few are the animal species which live an isolated life,

and how numberless are those which live in societies, either for

mutual defence, or for hunting and storing up food, or for

rearing their offspring, or simply for enjoying life in common.

We also saw that, though a good deal of warfare goes on between

different classes of animals, or different species, or even

different tribes of the same species, peace and mutual support

are the rule within the tribe or the species; and that those

species which best know how to combine, and to avoid competition,

have the best chances of survival and of a further progressive

development. They prosper, while the unsociable species decay.

It is evident that it would be quite contrary to all that we

know of nature if men were an exception to so general a rule: if

a creature so defenceless as man was at his beginnings should

have found his protection and his way to progress, not in mutual

support, like other animals, but in a reckless competition for

personal advantages, with no regard to the interests of the

species. To a mind accustomed to the idea of unity in nature,

such a proposition appears utterly indefensible. And yet,

improbable and unphilosophical as it is, it has never found a

lack of supporters. There always were writers who took a

pessimistic view of mankind. They knew it, more or less

superficially, through their own limited experience; they knew of

history what the annalists, always watchful of wars, cruelty, and

oppression, told of it, and little more besides; and they

concluded that mankind is nothing but a loose aggregation of

beings, always ready to fight with each other, and only prevented

from so doing by the intervention of some authority.

Hobbes took that position; and while some of his

eighteenth-century followers endeavoured to prove that at no

epoch of its existence -- not even in its most primitive

condition -- mankind lived in a state of perpetual warfare; that

men have been sociable even in "the state of nature," and that

want of knowledge, rather than the natural bad inclinations of

man, brought humanity to all the horrors of its early historical

life, -- his idea was, on the contrary, that the so-called "state

of nature" was nothing but a permanent fight between individuals,

accidentally huddled together by the mere caprice of their

bestial existence. True, that science has made some progress

since Hobbes's time, and that we have safer ground to stand upon

than the speculations of Hobbes or Rousseau. But the Hobbesian

philosophy has plenty of admirers still; and we have had of late

quite a school of writers who, taking possession of Darwin's

terminology rather than of his leading ideas, made of it an

argument in favour of Hobbes's views upon primitive man, and even

succeeded in giving them a scientific appearance. Huxley, as is

known, took the lead of that school, and in a paper written in

1888 he represented primitive men as a sort of tigers or lions,

deprived of all ethical conceptions, fighting out the struggle

for existence to its bitter end, and living a life of "continual

free fight"; to quote his own words -- "beyond the limited and,

temporary relations of the family, the Hobbesian war of each

against all was the normal state of existence."1

It has been remarked more than once that the chief error of

Hobbes, and the eighteenth-century philosophers as well, was to

imagine that mankind began its life in the shape of small

straggling families, something like the "limited and temporary"

families of the bigger carnivores, while in reality it is now

positively known that such was not the case. Of course, we have

no direct evidence as to the modes of life of the first man-like

beings. We are not yet settled even as to the time of their first

appearance, geologists being inclined at present to see their

traces in the pliocene, or even the miocene, deposits of the

Tertiary period. But we have the indirect method which permits us

to throw some light even upon that remote antiquity. A most

careful investigation into the social institutions of the lowest

races has been carried on during the last forty years, and it has

revealed among the present institutions of primitive folk some

traces of still older institutions which have long disappeared,

but nevertheless left unmistakable traces of their previous

existence. A whole science devoted to the embryology of human

institutions has thus developed in the hands of Bachofen,

MacLennan, Morgan, Edwin Tylor, Maine, Post, Kovalevsky, Lubbock,

and many others. And that science has established beyond any

doubt that mankind did not begin its life in the shape of small

isolated families.

Far from being a primitive form of organization, the family

is a very late product of human evolution. As far as we can go

back in the palaeo-ethnology of mankind, we find men living in

societies -- in tribes similar to those of the highest mammals;

and an extremely slow and long evolution was required to bring

these societies to the gentile, or clan organization, which, in

its turn, had to undergo another, also very long evolution,

before the first germs of family, polygamous or monogamous, could

appear. Societies, bands, or tribes -- not families -- were thus

the primitive form of organization of mankind and its earliest

ancestors. That is what ethnology has come to after its

painstaking researches. And in so doing it simply came to what

might have been foreseen by the zoologist. None of the higher

mammals, save a few carnivores and a few undoubtedly-decaying

species of apes (orang-outans and gorillas), live in small

families, isolatedly straggling in the woods. All others live in

societies. And Darwin so well understood that isolately-living

apes never could have developed into man-like beings, that he was

inclined to consider man as descended from some comparatively

weak but social species, like the chimpanzee, rather than from

some stronger but unsociable species, like the gorilla.2

Zoology and palaeo-ethnology are thus agreed in considering that

the band, not the family, was the earliest form of social life.

The first human societies simply were a further development of

those societies which constitute the very essence of life of the

higher animals.3

If we now go over to positive evidence, we see that the

earliest traces of man, dating from the glacial or the early

post-glacial period, afford unmistakable proofs of man having

lived even then in societies. Isolated finds of stone implements,

even from the old stone age, are very rare; on the contrary,

wherever one flint implement is discovered others are sure to be

found, in most cases in very large quantities. At a time when men

were dwelling in caves, or under occasionally protruding rocks,

in company with mammals now extinct, and hardly succeeded in

making the roughest sorts of flint hatchets, they already knew

the advantages of life in societies. In the valleys of the

tributaries of the Dordogne, the surface of the rocks is in some

places entirely covered with caves which were inhabited by

palaeolithic men.4 Sometimes the cave-dwellings are superposed

in storeys, and they certainly recall much more the nesting

colonies of swallows than the dens of carnivores. As to the flint

implements discovered in those caves, to use Lubbock's words,

"one may say without exaggeration that they are numberless." The

same is true of other palaeolithic stations. It also appears from

Lartet's investigations that the inhabitants of the Aurignac

region in the south of France partook of tribal meals at the

burial of their dead. So that men lived in societies, and had

germs of a tribal worship, even at that extremely remote epoch.

The same is still better proved as regards the later part of

the stone age. Traces of neolithic man have been found in

numberless quantities, so that we can reconstitute his manner of

life to a great extent. When the ice-cap (which must have spread

from the Polar regions as far south as middle France, middle

Germany, and middle Russia, and covered Canada as well as a good

deal of what is now the United States) began to melt away, the

surfaces freed from ice were covered, first, with swamps and

marshes, and later on with numberless lakes.5 Lakes filled all

depressions of the valleys before their waters dug out those

permanent channels which, during a subsequent epoch, became our

rivers. And wherever we explore, in Europe, Asia, or America, the

shores of the literally numberless lakes of that period, whose

proper name would be the Lacustrine period, we find traces of

neolithic man. They are so numerous that we can only wonder at

the relative density of population at that time. The "stations"

of neolithic man closely follow each other on the terraces which

now mark the shores of the old lakes. And at each of those

stations stone implements appear in such numbers, that no doubt

is possible as to the length of time during which they were

inhabited by rather numerous tribes. Whole workshops of flint

implements, testifying of the numbers of workers who used to come

together, have been discovered by the archaeologists.

Traces of a more advanced period, already characterized by

the use of some pottery, are found in the shell-heaps of Denmark.

They appear, as is well known, in the shape of heaps from five to

ten feet thick, from 100 to 200 feet wide, and 1,000 feet or more

in length, and they are so common along some parts of the

sea-coast that for a long time they were considered as natural

growths. And yet they "contain nothing but what has been in some

way or other subservient to the use of man," and they are so

densely stuffed with products of human industry that, during a

two days' stay at Milgaard, Lubbock dug out no less than 191

pieces of stone-implements and four fragments of pottery.6 The

very size and extension of the shell heaps prove that for

generations and generations the coasts of Denmark were inhabited

by hundreds of small tribes which certainly lived as peacefully

together as the Fuegian tribes, which also accumulate like

shellheaps, are living in our own times.

As to the lake-dwellings of Switzerland, which represent a

still further advance in civilization, they yield still better

evidence of life and work in societies. It is known that even

during the stone age the shores of the Swiss lakes were dotted

with a succession of villages, each of which consisted of several

huts, and was built upon a platform supported by numberless

pillars in the lake. No less than twenty-four, mostly stone age

villages, were discovered along the shores of Lake Leman,

thirty-two in the Lake of Constance, forty-six in the Lake of

Neuch?tel, and so on; and each of them testifies to the immense

amount of labour which was spent in common by the tribe, not by

the family. It has even been asserted that the life of the

lake-dwellers must have been remarkably free of warfare. And so

it probably was, especially if we refer to the life of those

primitive folk who live until the present time in similar

villages built upon pillars on the sea coasts.

It is thus seen, even from the above rapid hints, that our

knowledge of primitive man is not so scanty after all, and that,

so far as it goes, it is rather opposed than favourable to the

Hobbesian speculations. Moreover, it may be supplemented, to a

great extent, by the direct observation of such primitive tribes

as now stand on the same level of civilization as the inhabitants

of Europe stood in prehistoric times.

That these primitive tribes which we find now are not

degenerated specimens of mankind who formerly knew a higher

civilization, as it has occasionally been maintained, has

sufficiently been proved by Edwin Tylor and Lubbock. However, to

the arguments already opposed to the degeneration theory, the

following may be added. Save a few tribes clustering in the

less-accessible highlands, the "savages" represent a girdle which

encircles the more or less civilized nations, and they occupy the

extremities of our continents, most of which have retained still,

or recently were bearing, an early post-glacial character. Such

are the Eskimos and their congeners in Greenland, Arctic America,

and Northern Siberia; and, in the Southern hemisphere, the

Australians, the Papuas, the Fuegians, and, partly, the Bushmen;

while within the civilized area, like primitive folk are only

found in the Himalayas, the highlands of Australasia, and the

plateaus of Brazil. Now it must be borne in mind that the glacial

age did not come to an end at once over the whole surface of the

earth. It still continues in Greenland. Therefore, at a time when

the littoral regions of the Indian Ocean, the Mediterranean, or

the Gulf of Mexico already enjoyed a warmer climate, and became

the seats of higher civilizations, immense territories in middle

Europe, Siberia, and Northern America, as well as in Patagonia,

Southern Africa, and Southern Australasia, remained in early

postglacial conditions which rendered them inaccessible to the

civilized nations of the torrid and sub-torrid zones. They were

at that time what the terrible urmans of North-West Siberia are

now, and their population, inaccessible to and untouched by

civilization, retained the characters of early post-glacial man.

Later on, when desiccation rendered these territories more

suitable for agriculture, they were peopled with more civilized

immigrants; and while part of their previous inhabitants were

assimilated by the new settlers, another part migrated further,

and settled where we find them. The territories they inhabit now

are still, or recently were, sub-glacial, as to their physical

features; their arts and implements are those of the neolithic

age; and, notwithstanding their racial differences, and the

distances which separate them, their modes of life and social

institutions bear a striking likeness. So we cannot but consider

them as fragments of the early post-glacial population of the now

civilized area.

The first thing which strikes us as soon as we begin studying

primitive folk is the complexity of the organization of marriage

relations under which they are living. With most of them the

family, in the sense we attribute to it, is hardly found in its

germs. But they are by no means loose aggregations of men and

women coming in a disorderly manner together in conformity with

their momentary caprices. All of them are under a certain

organization, which has been described by Morgan in its general

aspects as the "gentile," or clan organization.7

To tell the matter as briefly as possible, there is little

doubt that mankind has passed at its beginnings through a stage

which may be described as that of "communal marriage"; that is,

the whole tribe had husbands and wives in common with but little

regard to consanguinity. But it is also certain that some

restrictions to that free intercourse were imposed at a very

early period. Inter-marriage was soon prohibited between the sons

of one mother and her sisters, granddaughters, and aunts. Later

on it was prohibited between the sons and daughters of the same

mother, and further limitations did not fail to follow. The idea

of a gens, or clan, which embodied all presumed descendants from

one stock (or rather all those who gathered in one group) was

evolved, and marriage within the clan was entirely prohibited. It

still remained "communal," but the wife or the husband had to be

taken from another clan. And when a gens became too numerous, and

subdivided into several gentes, each of them was divided into

classes (usually four), and marriage was permitted only between

certain well-defined classes. That is the stage which we find now

amOng the Kamilaroi-speaking Australians. As to the family, its

first germs appeared amidst the clan organization. A woman who

was captured in war from some other clan, and who formerly would

have belonged to the whole gens, could be kept at a later period

by the capturer, under certain obligations towards the tribe. She

may be taken by him to a separate hut, after she had paid a

certain tribute to the clan, and thus constitute within the gens

a separate family, the appearance of which evidently was opening

a quite new phase of civilization.8

Now, if we take into consideration that this complicated

organization developed among men who stood at the lowest known

degree of development, and that it maintained itself in societies

knowing no kind of authority besides the authority of public

opinion, we at once see how deeply inrooted social instincts must

have been in human nature, even at its lowest stages. A savage

who is capable of living under such an organization, and of

freely submitting to rules which continually clash with his

personal desires, certainly is not a beast devoid of ethical

principles and knowing no rein to its passions. But the fact

becomes still more striking if we consider the immense antiquity

of the clan organization. It is now known that the primitive

Semites, the Greeks of Homer, the prehistoric Romans, the Germans

of Tacitus, the early Celts and the early Slavonians, all have

had their own period of clan organization, closely analogous to

that of the Australians, the Red Indians, the Eskimos, and other

inhabitants of the "savage girdle."9 So we must admit that

either the evolution of marriage laws went on on the same lines

among all human races, or the rudiments of the clan rules were

developed among some common ancestors of the Semites, the Aryans,

the Polynesians, etc., before their differentiation into separate

races took place, and that these rules were maintained, until

now, among races long ago separated from the common stock. Both

alternatives imply, however, an equally striking tenacity of the

institution -- such a tenacity that no assaults of the individual

could break it down through the scores of thousands of years that

it was in existence. The very persistence of the clan

organization shows how utterly false it is to represent primitive

mankind as a disorderly agglomeration of individuals, who only

obey their individual passions, and take advantage of their

personal force and cunningness against all other representatives

of the species. Unbridled individualism is a modern growth, but

it is not characteristic of primitive mankind.10

Going now over to the existing savages, we may begin with the

Bushmen, who stand at a very low level of development -- so low

indeed that they have no dwellings and sleep in holes dug in the

soil, occasionally protected by some screens. It is known that

when Europeans settled in their territory and destroyed deer, the

Bushmen began stealing the settlers' cattle, whereupon a war of

extermination, too horrible to be related here, was waged against

them. Five hundred Bushmen were slaughtered in 1774, three

thousand in 1808 and 1809 by the Farmers' Alliance, and so on.

They were poisoned like rats, killed by hunters lying in ambush

before the carcass of some animal, killed wherever met with.11

So that our knowledge of the Bushmen, being chiefly borrowed from

those same people who exterminated them, is necessarily limited.

But still we know that when the Europeans came, the Bushmen lived

in small tribes (or clans), sometimes federated together; that

they used to hunt in common, and divided the spoil without

quarrelling; that they never abandoned their wounded, and

displayed strong affection to their comrades. Lichtenstein has a

most touching story about a Bushman, nearly drowned in a river,

who was rescued by his companions. They took off their furs to

cover him, and shivered themselves; they dried him, rubbed him

before the fire, and smeared his body with warm grease till they

brought him back to life. And when the Bushmen found, in Johan

van der Walt, a man who treated them well, they expressed their

thankfulness by a most touching attachment to that man.12

Burchell and Moffat both represent them as goodhearted,

disinterested, true to their promises, and grateful,13 all

qualities which could develop only by being practised within the

tribe. As to their love to children, it is sufficient to say that

when a European wished to secure a Bushman woman as a slave, he

stole her child: the mother was sure to come into slavery to

share the fate of her child.14

The same social manners characterize the Hottentots, who are

but a little more developed than the Bushmen. Lubbock describes

them as "the filthiest animals," and filthy they really are. A

fur suspended to the neck and worn till it falls to pieces is all

their dress; their huts are a few sticks assembled together and

covered with mats, with no kind of furniture within. And though

they kept oxen and sheep, and seem to have known the use of iron

before they made acquaintance with the Europeans, they still

occupy one of the lowest degrees of the human scale. And yet

those who knew them highly praised their sociability and

readiness to aid each other. If anything is given to a Hottentot,

he at once divides it among all present -- a habit which, as is

known, so much struck Darwin among the Fuegians. He cannot eat

alone, and, however hungry, he calls those who pass by to share

his food. And when Kolben expressed his astonishment thereat, he

received the answer. "That is Hottentot manner." But this is not

Hottentot manner only: it is an all but universal habit among the

"savages." Kolben, who knew the Hottentots well and did not pass

by their defects in silence, could not praise their tribal

morality highly enough.

"Their word is sacred," he wrote. They know "nothing of the

corruptness and faithless arts of Europe." "They live in great

tranquillity and are seldom at war with their neighbours." They

are "all kindness and goodwill to one another.. One of the

greatest pleasures of the Hottentots certainly lies in their

gifts and good offices to one another." "The integrity of the

Hottentots, their strictness and celerity in the exercise of

justice, and their chastity, are things in which they excel all

or most nations in the world."15

Tachart, Barrow, and Moodie16 fully confirm Kolben's

testimony. Let me only remark that when Kolben wrote that "they

are certainly the most friendly, the most liberal and the most

benevolent people to one another that ever appeared on the earth"

(i. 332), he wrote a sentence which has continually appeared

since in the description of savages. When first meeting with

primitive races, the Europeans usually make a caricature of their

life; but when an intelligent man has stayed among them for a

longer time, he generally describes them as the "kindest" or "the

gentlest" race on the earth. These very same words have been

applied to the Ostyaks, the Samoyedes, the Eskimos, the Dayaks,

the Aleoutes, the Papuas, and so on, by the highest authorities.

I also remember having read them applied to the Tunguses, the

Tchuktchis, the Sioux, and several others. The very frequency of

that high commendation already speaks volumes in itself.

The natives of Australia do not stand on a higher level of

development than their South African brothers. Their huts are of

the same character. very often simple screens are the only

protection against cold winds. In their food they are most

indifferent: they devour horribly putrefied corpses, and

cannibalism is resorted to in times of scarcity. When first

discovered by Europeans, they had no implements but in stone or

bone, and these were of the roughest description. Some tribes had

even no canoes, and did not know barter-trade. And yet, when

their manners and customs were carefully studied, they proved to

be living under that elaborate clan organization which I have

mentioned on a preceding page.17

The territory they inhabit is usually allotted between the

different gentes or clans; but the hunting and fishing

territories of each clan are kept in common, and the produce of

fishing and hunting belongs to the whole clan; so also the

fishing and hunting implements.18 The meals are taken in

common. Like many other savages, they respect certain regulations

as to the seasons when certain gums and grasses may be

collected.19 As to their morality altogether, we cannot do

better than transcribe the following answers given to the

questions of the Paris Anthropological Society by Lumholtz, a

missionary who sojourned in North Queensland:20 --

"The feeling of friendship is known among them; it is strong.

Weak people are usually supported; sick people are very well

attended to; they never are abandoned or killed. These tribes are

cannibals, but they very seldom eat members of their own tribe

(when immolated on religious principles, I suppose); they eat

strangers only. The parents love their children, play with them,

and pet them. Infanticide meets with common approval. Old people

are very well treated, never put to death. No religion, no idols,

only a fear of death. Polygamous marriage. quarrels arising

within the tribe are settled by means of duels fought with wooden

swords and shields. No slaves; no culture of any kind; no

pottery; no dress, save an apron sometimes worn by women. The

clan consists of two hundred individuals, divided into four

classes of men and four of women; marriage being only permitted

within the usual classes, and never within the gens."

For the Papuas, closely akin to the above, we have the

testimony of G.L. Bink, who stayed in New Guinea, chiefly in

Geelwink Bay, from 1871 to 1883. Here is the essence of his

answers to the same questioner:21 --

"They are sociable and cheerful; they laugh very much. Rather

timid than courageous. Friendship is relatively strong among

persons belonging to different tribes, and still stronger within

the tribe. A friend will often pay the debt of his friend, the

stipulation being that the latter will repay it without interest

to the children of the lender. They take care of the ill and the

old; old people are never abandoned, and in no case are they

killed -- unless it be a slave who was ill for a long time. War

prisoners are sometimes eaten. The children are very much petted

and loved. Old and feeble war prisoners are killed, the others

are sold as slaves. They have no religion, no gods, no idols, no

authority of any description; the oldest man in the family is the

judge. In cases of adultery a fine is paid, and part of it goes

to the negoria (the community). The soil is kept in common, but

the crop belongs to those who have grown it. They have pottery,

and know barter-trade -- the custom being that the merchant gives

them the goods, whereupon they return to their houses and bring

the native goods required by the merchant; if the latter cannot

be obtained, the European goods are returned.22 They are

head-hunters, and in so doing they prosecute blood revenge.

'Sometimes,' Finsch says, 'the affair is referred to the Rajah of

Namototte, who terminates it by imposing a fine.'"

When well treated, the Papuas are very kind. Miklukho-Maclay

landed on the eastern coast of New Guinea, followed by one single

man, stayed for two years among tribes reported to be cannibals,

and left them with regret; he returned again to stay one year

more among them, and never had he any conflict to complain of.

True that his rule was never -- under no pretext whatever -- to

say anything which was not truth, nor make any promise which he

could not keep. These poor creatures, who even do not know how to

obtain fire, and carefully maintain it in their huts, live under

their primitive communism, without any chiefs; and within their

villages they have no quarrels worth speaking of. They work in

common, just enough to get the food of the day; they rear their

children in common; and in the evenings they dress themselves as

coquettishly as they can, and dance. Like all savages, they are

fond of dancing. Each village has its barla, or balai -- the

"long house," "longue maison," or "grande maison" -- for the

unmarried men, for social gatherings, and for the discussion of

common affairs -- again a trait which is common to most

inhabitants of the Pacific Islands, the Eskimos, the Red Indians,

and so on. Whole groups of villages are on friendly terms, and

visit each other en bloc.

Unhappily, feuds are not uncommon -- not in consequence of

"Overstocking of the area," or "keen competition," and like

inventions of a mercantile century, but chiefly in consequence of

superstition. As soon as any one falls ill, his friends and

relatives come together, and deliberately discuss who might be

the cause of the illness. All possible enemies are considered,

every one confesses of his own petty quarrels, and finally the

real cause is discovered. An enemy from the next village has

called it down, and a raid upon that village is decided upon.

Therefore, feuds are rather frequent, even between the coast

villages, not to say a word of the cannibal mountaineers who are

considered as real witches and enemies, though, on a closer

acquaintance, they prove to be exactly the same sort of people as

their neighbours on the seacoast.23

Many striking pages could be written about the harmony which

prevails in the villages of the Polynesian inhabitants of the

Pacific Islands. But they belong to a more advanced stage of

civilization. So we shall now take our illustrations from the far

north. I must mention, however, before leaving the Southern

Hemisphere, that even the Fuegians, whose reputation has been so

bad, appear under a much better light since they begin to be

better known. A few French missionaries who stay among them "know

of no act of malevolence to complain of." In their clans,

consisting of from 120 to 150 souls, they practise the same

primitive communism as the Papuas; they share everything in

common, and treat their old people very well. Peace prevails

among these tribes.24 With the Eskimos and their nearest

congeners, the Thlinkets, the Koloshes, and the Aleoutes, we find

one of the nearest illustrations of what man may have been during

the glacial age. Their implements hardly differ from those of

palaeolithic man, and some of their tribes do not yet know

fishing: they simply spear the fish with a kind of harpoon.25

They know the use of iron, but they receive it from the

Europeans, or find it on wrecked ships. Their social organization

is of a very primitive kind, though they already have emerged

from the stage of "communal marriage," even under the gentile

restrictions. They live in families, but the family bonds are

often broken; husbands and wives are often exchanged.26 The

families, however, remain united in clans, and how could it be

otherwise? How could they sustain the hard struggle for life

unless by closely combining their forces? So they do, and the

tribal bonds are closest where the struggle for life is hardest,

namely, in North-East Greenland. The "long house" is their usual

dwelling, and several families lodge in it, separated from each

other by small partitions of ragged furs, with a common passage

in the front. Sometimes the house has the shape of a cross, and

in such case a common fire is kept in the centre. The German

Expedition which spent a winter close by one of those "long

houses" could ascertain that "no quarrel disturbed the peace, no

dispute arose about the use of this narrow space" throughout the

long winter. "Scolding, or even unkind words, are considered as a

misdemeanour, if not produced under the legal form of process,

namely, the nith-song."27 Close cohabitation and close

interdependence are sufficient for maintaining century after

century that deep respect for the interests of the community

which is characteristic of Eskimo life. Even in the larger

communities of Eskimos, "public opinion formed the real

judgment-seat, the general punishment consisting in the offenders

being shamed in the eyes of the people."28

Eskimo life is based upon communism. What is obtained by

hunting and fishing belongs to the clan. But in several tribes,

especially in the West, under the influence of the Danes, private

property penetrates into their institutions. However, they 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

Aleonte family distributing in this way ten guns, ten full fur

dresses, 200 strings of beads, numerous blankets, ten wolf furs,

200 beavers, and 500 zibelines. After that they took off their

festival dresses, gave them away, 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.29 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.30 In my 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. And the habit of either burying with the dead, or

destroying upon his grave, all that belonged to him personally

-- a habit which we find among all primitive races -- must have

had the same origin. In fact, while everything that belongs

personally to the dead is burnt or broken upon his grave, nothing

is destroyed of what belonged to him in common with the tribe,

such as boats, or the communal implements of fishing. The

destruction bears upon personal property alone. At a later epoch

this habit becomes a religious ceremony. It receives a mystical

interpretation, and is imposed by religion, when public opinion

alone proves incapable of enforcing its general observance. And,

finally, it is substituted by either burning simple models of the

dead man's property (as in China), or by simply carrying his

property to the grave and taking it back to his house after the

burial ceremony is over -- a habit which still prevails with the

Europeans as regards swords, crosses, and other marks of public


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

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.)

Their code of morality is both varied and severe. It is

considered shameful to be afraid of unavoidable death; to ask

pardon from an enemy; to die without ever having killed an enemy;

to be convicted of stealing; to capsize a boat in the harbour; to

be afraid of going to sea in stormy weather. to be the first in a

party on a long journey to become an invalid in case of scarcity

of food; to show greediness when spoil is divided, in which case

every one gives his own part to the greedy man to shame him; to

divulge a public secret to his wife; being two persons on a

hunting expedition, not to offer the best game to the partner; to

boast of his own deeds, especially of invented ones; to scold any

one in scorn. Also to beg; to pet his wife in other people's

presence, and to dance with her to bargain personally: selling

must always be made through a third person, who settles the

price. For a woman it is a shame not to know sewing, dancing and

all kinds of woman's work; to pet her husband and children, or

even to speak to her husband in the presence of a stranger.32

Such is Aleoute morality, which might also be further

illustrated by their tales and legends. Let me also add that when

Veniaminoff wrote (in 1840) one murder only had been committed

since the last century in a population of 60,000 people, and that

among 1,800 Aleoutes not one single common law offence had been

known for forty years. This will not seem strange if we remark

that scolding, scorning, and the use of rough words are

absolutely unknown in Aleoute life. Even their children never

fight, and never abuse each other in words. All they may say is,

"Your mother does not know sewing," or "Your father is blind of

one eye."33

Many features of savage life remain, however, a puzzle to

Europeans. The high development of tribal solidarity and the good

feelings with which primitive folk are animated towards each

other, could be illustrated by any amount of reliable testimony.

And yet it is not the less certain that those same savages

practise infanticide; that in some cases they abandon their old

people, and that they blindly obey the rules of blood-revenge. We

must then explain the coexistence of facts which, to the European

mind, seem so contradictory at the first sight. I have just

mentioned how the Aleoute father starves for days and weeks, and

gives everything eatable to his child; and how the Bushman mother

becomes a slave to follow her child; and I might fill pages with

illustrations of the really tender relations existing among the

savages and their children. Travellers continually mention them

incidentally. Here you read about the fond love of a mother;

there you see a father wildly running through the forest and

carrying upon his shoulders his child bitten by a snake; or a

missionary tells you the despair of the parents at the loss of a

child whom he had saved, a few years before, from being immolated

at its birth. you learn that the "savage" mothers usually nurse

their children till the age of four, and that, in the New

Hebrides, on the loss of a specially beloved child, its mother,

or aunt, will kill herself to take care of it in the other

world.34 And so on.

Like facts are met with by the score; so that, when we see

that these same loving parents practise infanticide, we are bound

to recognize that the habit (whatever its ulterior

transformations may be) took its origin under the sheer pressure

of necessity, as an obligation towards the tribe, and a means for

rearing the already growing children. The savages, as a rule, do

not "multiply without stint," as some English writers put it. On

the contrary, they take all kinds of measures for diminishing the

birth-rate. A whole series of restrictions, which Europeans

certainly would find extravagant, are imposed to that effect, and

they are strictly obeyed. But notwithstanding that, primitive

folk cannot rear all their children. However, it has been

remarked that as soon as they succeed in increasing their regular

means of subsistence, they at once begin to abandon the practice

of infanticide. On the whole, the parents obey that obligation

reluctantly, and as soon as they can afford it they resort to all

kinds of compromises to save the lives of their new-born. As has

been so well pointed out by my friend Elie Reclus,35 they

invent the lucky and unlucky days of births, and spare the

children born on the lucky days; they try to postpone the

sentence for a few hours, and then say that if the baby has lived

one day it must live all its natural life.36 They hear the

cries of the little ones coming from the forest, and maintain

that, if heard, they forbode a misfortune for the tribe; and as

they have no baby-farming nor cr?ches for getting rid of the

children, every one of them recoils before the necessity of

performing the cruel sentence; they prefer to expose the baby in

the wood rather than to take its life by violence. Ignorance, not

cruelty, maintains infanticide; and, instead of moralizing the

savages with sermons, the missionaries would do better to follow

the example of Veniaminoff, who, every year till his old age,

crossed the sea of Okhotsk in a miserable boat, or travelled on

dogs among his Tchuktchis, supplying them with bread and fishing

implements. He thus had really stopped infanticide.

The same is true as regards what superficial observers

describe as parricide. We just now saw that the habit of

abandoning old people is not so widely spread as some writers

have maintained it to be. It has been extremely exaggerated, but

it is occasionally met with among nearly all savages; and in such

cases it has the same origin as the exposure of children. When a

"savage" feels that he is a burden to his tribe; when every

morning his share of food is taken from the mouths of the

children -- and the little ones are not so stoical as their

fathers: they cry when they are hungry; when every day he has to

be carried across the stony beach, or the virgin forest, on the

shoulders of younger people there are no invalid carriages, nor

destitutes to wheel them in savage lands -- he begins to repeat

what the old Russian peasants say until now-a-day. "Tchujoi vek

zayedayu, Pora na pokoi!" ("I live other people's life: it is

time to retire!") And he retires. He does what the soldier does

in a similar case. When the salvation of his detachment depends

upon its further advance, and he can move no more, and knows that

he must die if left behind, the soldier implores his best friend

to render him the last service before leaving the encampment. And

the friend, with shivering hands, discharges his gun into the

dying body. So the savages do. The old man asks himself to die;

he himself insists upon this last duty towards the community, and

obtains the consent of the tribe; he digs out his grave; he

invites his kinsfolk to the last parting meal. His father has

done so, it is now his turn; and he parts with his kinsfolk with

marks of affection. The savage so much considers death as part of

his duties towards his community, that he not only refuses to be

rescued (as Moffat has told), but when a woman who had to be

immolated on her husband's grave was rescued by missionaries, and

was taken to an island, she escaped in the night, crossed a broad

sea-arm, swimming and rejoined her tribe, to die on the

grave.37 It has become with them a matter of religion. But the

savages, as a rule, are so reluctant to take any one's life

otherwise than in fight, that none of them will take upon himself

to shed human blood, and they resort to all kinds of stratagems,

which have been so falsely interpreted. In most cases, they

abandon the old man in the wood, after having given him more than

his share of the common food. Arctic expeditions have done the

same when they no more could carry their invalid comrades. "Live

a few days more. may be there will be some unexpected rescue!"

West European men of science, when coming across these facts, are

absolutely unable to stand them; they can not reconcile them with

a high development of tribal morality, and they prefer to cast a

doubt upon the exactitude of absolutely reliable observers,

instead of trying to explain the parallel existence of the two

sets of facts: a high tribal morality together with the

abandonment of the parents and infanticide. But if these same

Europeans were to tell a savage that people, extremely amiable,

fond of their own children, and so impressionable that they cry

when they see a misfortune simulated on the stage, are living in

Europe within a stone's throw from dens in which children die

from sheer want of food, the savage, too, would not understand

them. I remember how vainly I tried to make some of my Tungus

friends understand our civilization of individualism: they could

not, and they resorted to the most fantastical suggestions. The

fact is that a savage, brought up in ideas of a tribal solidarity

in everything for bad and for good, is as incapable of

understanding a "moral" European, who knows nothing of that

solidarity, as the average European is incapable of understanding

the savage. But if our scientist had lived amidst a half-starving

tribe which does not possess among them all one man's food for so

much as a few days to come, he probably might have understood

their motives. So also the savage, if he had stayed among us, and

received our education, may be, would understand our European

indifference towards our neighbours, and our Royal Commissions

for the prevention of "babyfarming." "Stone houses make stony

hearts," the Russian peasants say. But he ought to live in a

stone house first.

Similar remarks must be made as regards cannibalism. Taking

into account all the facts which were brought to light during a

recent controversy on this subject at the Paris Anthropological

Society, and many incidental remarks scattered throughout the

"savage" literature, we are bound to recognize that that practice

was brought into existence by sheer necessity. but that it was

further developed by superstition and religion into the

proportions it attained in Fiji or in Mexico. It is a fact that

until this day many savages are compelled to devour corpses in

the most advanced state of putrefaction, and that in cases of

absolute scarcity some of them have had to disinter and to feed

upon human corpses, even during an epidemic. These are

ascertained facts. But if we now transport ourselves to the

conditions which man had to face during the glacial period, in a

damp and cold climate, with but little vegetable food at his

disposal; if we take into account the terrible ravages which

scurvy still makes among underfed natives, and remember that meat

and fresh blood are the only restoratives which they know, we

must admit that man, who formerly was a granivorous animal,

became a flesh-eater during the glacial period. He found plenty

of deer at that time, but deer often migrate in the Arctic

regions, and sometimes they entirely abandon a territory for a

number of years. In such cases his last resources disappeared.

During like hard trials, cannibalism has been resorted to even by

Europeans, and it was resorted to by the savages. Until the

present time, they occasionally devour the corpses of their own

dead: they must have devoured then the corpses of those who had

to die. Old people died, convinced that by their death they were

rendering a last service to the tribe. This is why cannibalism is

represented by some savages as of divine origin, as something

that has been ordered by a messenger from the sky. But later on

it lost its character of necessity, and survived as a

superstition. Enemies had to be eaten in order to inherit their

courage; and, at a still later epoch, the enemy's eye or heart

was eaten for the same purpose; while among other tribes, already

having a numerous priesthood and a developed mythology, evil

gods, thirsty for human blood, were invented, and human

sacrifices required by the priests to appease the gods. In this

religious phase of its existence, cannibalism attained its most

revolting characters. Mexico is a well-known example; and in

Fiji, where the king could eat any one of his subjects, we also

find a mighty cast of priests, a complicated theology,38 and a

full development of autocracy. Originated by necessity,

cannibalism became, at a later period, a religious institution,

and in this form it survived long after it had disappeared from

among tribes which certainly practised it in former times, but

did not attain the theocratical stage of evolution. The same

remark must be made as regards infanticide and the abandonment of

parents. In some cases they also have been maintained as a

survival of olden times, as a religiously-kept tradition of the


I will terminate my remarks by mentioning another custom

which also is a source of most erroneous conclusions. I mean the

practice of blood-revenge. All savages are under the impression

that blood shed must be revenged by blood. If any one has been

killed, the murderer must die; if any one has been wounded, the

aggressor's blood must be shed. There is no exception to the

rule, not even for animals; so the hunter's blood is shed on his

return to the village when he has shed the blood of an animal.

That is the savages' conception of justice -- a conception which

yet prevails in Western Europe as regards murder. Now, when both

the offender and the offended belong to the same tribe, the tribe

and the offended person settle the affair.39 But when the

offender belongs to another tribe, and that tribe, for one reason

or another, refuses a compensation, then the offended tribe

decides to take the revenge itself. Primitive folk so much

consider every one's acts as a tribal affair, dependent upon

tribal approval, that they easily think the clan responsible for

every one's acts. Therefore, the due revenge may be taken upon

any member of the offender's clan or relatives.40 It may often

happen, however, that the retaliation goes further than the

offence. In trying to inflict a wound, they may kill the

offender, or wound him more than they intended to do, and this

becomes a cause for a new feud, so that the primitive legislators

were careful in requiring the retaliation to be limited to an eye

for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, and blood for blood.41

It is remarkable, however, that with most primitive folk like

feuds are infinitely rarer than might be expected; though with

some of them they may attain abnormal proportions, especially

with mountaineers who have been driven to the highlands by

foreign invaders, such as the mountaineers of Caucasia, and

especially those of Borneo -- the Dayaks. With the Dayaks -- we

were told lately -- the feuds had gone so far that a young man

could neither marry nor be proclaimed of age before he had

secured the head of an enemy. This horrid practice was fully

described in a modern English work.42 It appears, however,

that this affirmation was a gross exaggeration. Moreover, Dayak

"head-hunting" takes quite another aspect when we learn that the

supposed "headhunter" is not actuated at all by personal passion.

He acts under what he considers as a moral obligation towards his

tribe, just as the European judge who, in obedience to the same,

evidently wrong, principle of "blood for blood," hands over the

condemned murderer to the hangman. Both the Dayak and the judge

would even feel remorse if sympathy moved them to spare the

murderer. That is why the Dayaks, apart from the murders they

commit when actuated by their conception of justice, are

depicted, by all those who know them, as a most sympathetic

people. Thus Carl Bock, the same author who has given such a

terrible picture of head-hunting, writes:

"As regards morality, I am bound to assign to the Dayaks a high

place in the scale of civilization.... Robberies and theft are

entirely unknown among them. They also are very truthful.... If I

did not always get the ' whole truth,' I always got, at least,

nothing but the truth from them. I wish I could say the same of

the Malays" (pp. 209 and 210).

Bock's testimony is fully corroborated by that of Ida

Pfeiffer. "I fully recognized," she wrote, "that I should be

pleased longer to travel among them. I usually found them honest,

good, and reserved... much more so than any other nation I

know."43 Stoltze used almost the same language when speaking

of them. The Dayaks usually have but one wife, and treat her

well. They are very sociable, and every morning the whole clan

goes out for fishing, hunting, or gardening, in large parties.

Their villages consist of big huts, each of which is inhabited by

a dozen families, and sometimes by several hundred persons,

peacefully living together. They show great respect for their

wives, and are fond of their children; and when one of them falls

ill, the women nurse him in turn. As a rule they are very

moderate in eating and drinking. Such is the Dayak in his real

daily life.

It would be a tedious repetition if more illustrations from

savage life were given. Wherever we go we find the same sociable

manners, the same spirit of solidarity. And when we endeavour to

penetrate into the darkness of past ages, we find the same tribal

life, the same associations of men, however primitive, for mutual

support. Therefore, Darwin was quite right when he saw in man's

social qualities the chief factor for his further evolution, and

Darwin's vulgarizers are entirely wrong when they maintain the


The small strength and speed of man (he wrote), his want of

natural weapons, etc., are more than counterbalanced, firstly, by

his intellectual faculties (which, he remarked on another page,

have been chiefly or even exclusively gained for the benefit of

the community). and secondly, by his social qualities, which led

him to give and receive aid from his fellow men.44

In the last century the "savage" and his "life in the state

of nature" were idealized. But now men of science have gone to

the opposite extreme, especially since some of them, anxious to

prove the animal origin of man, but not conversant with the

social aspects of animal life, began to charge the savage with

all imaginable "bestial" features. It is evident, however, that

this exaggeration is even more unscientific than Rousseau's

idealization. The savage is not an ideal of virtue, nor is he an

ideal of "savagery." But the primitive man has one quality,

elaborated and maintained by the very necessities of his hard

struggle for life -- he identifies his own existence with that of

his tribe; and without that quality mankind never would have

attained the level it has attained now.

Primitive folk, as has been already said, so much identify

their lives with that of the tribe, that each of their acts,

however insignificant, is considered as a tribal affair. Their

whole behaviour is regulated by an infinite series of unwritten

rules of propriety which are the fruit of their common experience

as to what is good or bad -- that is, beneficial or harmful for

their own tribe. Of course, the reasonings upon which their rules

of propriety are based sometimes are absurd in the extreme. Many

of them originate in superstition; and altogether, in whatever

the savage does, he sees but the immediate consequences of his

acts; he cannot foresee their indirect and ulterior consequences

-- thus simply exaggerating a defect with which Bentham

reproached civilized legislators. But, absurd or not, the savage

obeys the prescriptions of the common law, however inconvenient

they may be. He obeys them even more blindly than the civilized

man obeys the prescriptions of the written law. His common law is

his religion; it is his very habit of living. The idea of the

clan is always present to his mind, and self-restriction and

self-sacrifice in the interest of the clan are of daily

occurrence. If the savage has infringed one of the smaller tribal

rules, he is prosecuted by the mockeries of the women. If the

infringement is grave, he is tortured day and night by the fear

of having called a calamity upon his tribe. If he has wounded by

accident any one of his own clan, and thus has committed the

greatest of all crimes, he grows quite miserable: he runs away in

the woods, and is ready to commit suicide, unless the tribe

absolves him by inflicting upon him a physical pain and sheds

some of his own blood.45 Within the tribe everything is shared

in common; every morsel of food is divided among all present; and

if the savage is alone in the woods, he does not begin eating

before he has loudly shouted thrice an invitation to any one who

may hear his voice to share his meal.46

In short, within the tribe the rule of "each for all" is

supreme, so long as the separate family has not yet broken up the

tribal unity. But that rule is not extended to the neighbouring

clans, or tribes, even when they are federated for mutual

protection. Each tribe, or clan, is a separate unity. Just as

among mammals and birds, the territory is roughly allotted among

separate tribes, and, except in times of war, the boundaries are

respected. On entering the territory of his neighbours one must

show that he has no bad intentions. The louder one heralds his

coming, the more confidence he wins; and if he enters a house, he

must deposit his hatchet at the entrance. But no tribe is bound

to share its food with the others: it may do so or it may not.

Therefore the life of the savage is divided into two sets of

actions, and appears under two different ethical aspects: the

relations within the tribe, and the relations with the outsiders;

and (like our international law) the "inter-tribal" law widely

differs from the common law. Therefore, when it comes to a war

the most revolting cruelties may be considered as so many claims

upon the admiration of the tribe. This double conception of

morality passes through the whole evolution of mankind, and

maintains itself until now. We Europeans have realized some

progress -- not immense, at any rate -- in eradicating that

double conception of ethics; but it also must be said that while

we have in some measure extended our ideas of solidarity -- in

theory, at least -- over the nation, and partly over other

nations as well, we have lessened the bonds of solidarity within

our own nations, and even within our own families.

The appearance of a separate family amidst the clan

necessarily disturbs the established unity. A separate family

means separate property and accumulation of wealth. We saw how

the Eskimos obviate its inconveniences; and it is one of the most

interesting studies to follow in the course of ages the different

institutions (village communities, guilds, and so on) by means of

which the masses endeavoured to maintain the tribal unity,

notwithstanding the agencies which were at work to break it down.

On the other hand, the first rudiments of knowledge which

appeared at an extremely remote epoch, when they confounded

themselves with witchcraft, also became a power in the hands of

the individual which could be used against the tribe. They were

carefully kept in secrecy, and transmitted to the initiated only,

in the secret societies of witches, shamans, and priests, which

we find among all savages. By the same time, wars and invasions

created military authority, as also castes of warriors, whose

associations or clubs acquired great powers. However, at no

period of man's life were wars the normal state of existence.

While warriors exterminated each other, and the priests

celebrated their massacres, the masses continued to live their

daily life, they prosecuted their daily toil. And it is one of

the most interesting studies to follow that life of the masses;

to study the means by which they maintained their own social

organization, which was based upon their own conceptions of

equity, mutual aid, and mutual support -- of common law, in a

word, even when they were submitted to the most ferocious

theocracy or autocracy in the State.

1 Nineteenth Century., February 1888, p. 165
2 The Descent of Man, end of ch. ii. pp. 63 and 64 of the 2nd
3 Anthropologists who fully endorse the above views as regards
man nevertheless intimate, sometimes, that the apes live in
polygamous families, under the leadership of "a strong and
jealous male." I do not know how far that assertion is based upon
conclusive observation. But the passage from Brehm's Life of
Animals, which is sometimes referred to, can hardly be taken as
very conclusive. It occurs in his general description of monkeys;
but his more detailed descriptions of separate species either
contradict it or do not confirm it. Even as regards the
cercopith?ques, Brehm is affirmative in saying that they "nearly
always live in bands, and very seldom in families" (French
edition, p. 59). As to other species, the very numbers of their
bands, always containing many males, render the "polygamous
family" more than doubtful further observation is evidently
4 Lubbock, Prehistoric Times, fifth edition, 1890.
5 That extension of the ice-cap is admitted by most of the
geologists who have specially studied the glacial age. The
Russian Geological Survey already has taken this view as regards
Russia, and most German specialists maintain it as regards
Germany. The glaciation of most of the central plateau of France
will not fail to be recognized by the French geologists, when
they pay more attention to the glacial deposits altogether.
6 Prehistoric Times, pp. 232 and 242.
7 Bachofen, Das Mutterrecht, Stuttgart, 1861; Lewis H. Morgan,
Ancient Society, or Researches in the Lines of Human Progress
from Savagery through Barbarism to Civilization, New York, 1877;
J.F. MacLennan, Studies in Ancient History, 1st series, new
edition, 1886; 2nd series, 1896; L. Fison and A.W. Howitt,
Kamilaroi and Kurnai, Melbourne. These four writers -- as has
been very truly remarked by Giraud Teulon, -- starting from
different facts and different general ideas, and following
different methods, have come to the same conclusion. To Bachofen
we owe the notion of the maternal family and the maternal
succession; to Morgan -- the system of kinship, Malayan and
Turanian, and a highly gifted sketch of the main phases of human
evolution; to MacLennan -- the law of exogeny; and to Fison and
Howitt -- the cuadro, or scheme, of the conjugal societies in
Australia. All four end in establishing the same fact of the
tribal origin of the family. When Bachofen first drew attention
to the maternal family, in his epoch.making work, and Morgan
described the clan-organization, -- both concurring to the almost
general extension of these forms and maintaining that the
marriage laws lie at the very basis of the consecutive steps of
human evolution, they were accused of exaggeration. However, the
most careful researches prosecuted since, by a phalanx of
students of ancient law, have proved that all races of mankind
bear traces of having passed through similar stages of
development of marriage laws, such as we now see in force among
certain savages. See the works of Post, Dargun, Kovalevsky,
Lubbock, and their numerous followers: Lippert, Mucke, etc.
8 See Appendix VII.
9 For the Semites and the Aryans, see especially Prof. Maxim
Kovalevsky's Primitive Law (in Russian), Moscow, 1886 and 1887.
Also his Lectures delivered at Stockholm (Tableau des origines et
de l'?volution de la famille et de la propri?t?, Stockholm,
1890), which represents an admirable review of the whole
question. Cf. also A. Post, Die Geschlechtsgenossenschaft der
Urzeit, Oldenburg 1875.
10 It would be impossible to enter here into a discussion of the
origin of the marriage restrictions. Let me only remark that a
division into groups, similar to Morgan's Hawaian, exists among
birds; the young broods live together separately from their
parents. A like division might probably be traced among some
mammals as well. As to the prohibition of relations between
brothers and sisters, it is more likely to have arisen, not from
speculations about the bad effects of consanguinity, which
speculations really do not seem probable, but to avoid the
too-easy precocity of like marriages. Under close cohabitation it
must have become of imperious necessity. I must also remark that
in discussing the origin of new customs altogether, we must keep
in mind that the savages, like us, have their "thinkers" and
savants-wizards, doctors, prophets, etc. -- whose knowledge and
ideas are in advance upon those of the masses. United as they are
in their secret unions (another almost universal feature) they
are certainly capable of exercising a powerful influence, and of
enforcing customs the utility of which may not yet be recognized
by the majority of the tribe.
11 Col. Collins, in Philips' Researches in South Africa, London,
1828. Quoted by Waitz, ii. 334.
12 Lichtenstein's Reisen im s?dlichen Afrika, ii. Pp. 92, 97.
Berlin, 1811.
13 Waitz, Anthropologie der Naturvolker, ii. pp. 335 seq. See
also Fritsch's Die Eingeboren Afrika's, Breslau, 1872, pp. 386
seq.; and Drei Jahre in S?d Afrika. Also W. Bleck, A Brief
Account of Bushmen Folklore, Capetown, 1875.
14 Elis?e Reclus, G?ographie Universelle, xiii. 475.
15 P. Kolben, The Present State of the Cape of Good Hope,
translated from the German by Mr. Medley, London, 1731, vol. i.
pp. 59, 71, 333, 336, etc.
16 Quoted in Waitz's Anthropologie, ii. 335 seq.
17 The natives living in the north of Sidney, and speaking the
Kamilaroi language, are best known under this aspect, through the
capital work of Lorimer Fison and A.W. Howitt, Kamilaroi and
Kurnaii, Melbourne, 1880. See also A.W. Howitt's "Further Note on
the Australian Class Systems," in Journal of the Anthropological
Institute, 1889, vol. xviii. p. 31, showing the wide extension of
the same organization in Australia.
18 The Folklore, Manners, etc., of Australian Aborigines,
Adelaide, 1879, p. 11.
19 Grey's Journals of Two Expeditions of Discovery in North-West
and Western Australia, London, 1841, vol. ii. pp. 237, 298.
20 Bulletin de la Soci?t? d'Anthropologie, 1888, vol. xi. p.
652. I abridge the answers.
21 Bulletin de la Soci?t? d'Anthropologie, 1888, vol. xi. p.
22 The same is the practice with the Papuas of Kaimani Bay, who
have a high reputation of honesty. "It never happens that the
Papua be untrue to his promise," Finsch says in Neuguinea und
seine Bewohner, Bremen, 1865, p. 829.
23 Izvestia of the Russian Geographical Society, 1880, pp. 161
seq. Few books of travel give a better insight into the petty
details of the daily life of savages than these scraps from
Maklay's notebooks.
24 L.F. Martial, in Mission Scientifique au Cap Horn, Paris,
1883, vol. i. pp. 183-201.

25 Captain Holm's Expedition to East Greenland.
26 In Australia whole clans have been seen exchanging all their
wives, in order to conjure a calamity (Post, Studien zur
Entwicklungsgeschichte des Familienrechts, 1890, p. 342). More
brotherhood is their specific against calamities.
27 Dr. H. Rink, The Eskimo Tribes, p. 26 (Meddelelser om
Gr?nland, vol. xi. 1887).
28 Dr. Rink, loc. cit. p. 24. Europeans, grown in the respect of
Roman law, are seldom capable of understanding that force of
tribal authority. "In fact," Dr. Rink writes, "it is not the
exception, but the rule, that white men who have stayed for ten
or twenty years among the Eskimo, return without any real
addition to their knowledge of the traditional ideas upon which
their social state is based. The white man, whether a missionary
or a trader, is firm in his dogmatic opinion that the most vulgar
European is better than the most distinguished native." -- The
Eskimo Tribes, p. 31.
29 Dall, Alaska and its Resources, Cambridge, U.S., 1870.
30 Dall saw it in Alaska, Jacobsen at Ignitok in the vicinity of
the Bering Strait. Gilbert Sproat mentions it among the Vancouver
indians; and Dr. Rink, who describes the periodical exhibitions
just mentioned, adds: "The principal use of the accumulation of
personal wealth is for periodically distributing it." He also
mentions (loc. cit. p. 31) "the destruction of property for the
same purpose,' (of maintaining equality).
31 See Appendix VIII.
32 Veniaminoff, Memoirs relative to the District of Unalashka
(Russian), 3 vols. St. Petersburg, 1840. Extracts, in English,
from the above are given in Dall's Alaska. A like description of
the Australians' morality is given in Nature, xlii. p. 639.
33 It is most remarkable that several writers (Middendorff,
Schrenk, O. Finsch) described the Ostyaks and Samoyedes in almost
the same words. Even when drunken, their quarrels are
insignificant. "For a hundred years one single murder has been
committed in the tundra;" "their children never fight;" "anything
may be left for years in the tundra, even food and gin, and
nobody will touch it;" and so on. Gilbert Sproat "never witnessed
a fight between two sober natives" of the Aht Indians of
Vancouver Island. "Quarrelling is also rare among their
children." (Rink, loc. cit.) And so on.
34 Gill, quoted in Gerland and Waitz's Anthropologie, v. 641.
See also pp. 636-640, where many facts of parental and filial
love are quoted.
35 Primitive Folk, London, 1891.
36 Gerland, loc. cit. v. 636.
37 Erskine, quoted in Gerland and Waitz's Anthropologie, v. 640.
38 W.T. Pritchard, Polynesian Reminiscences, London, 1866, p.
39 It is remarkable, however, that in case of a sentence of
death, nobody will take upon himself to be the executioner. Every
one throws his stone, or gives his blow with the hatchet,
carefully avoiding to give a mortal blow. At a later epoch, the
priest will stab the victim with a sacred knife. Still later, it
will be the king, until civilization invents the hired hangman.
See Bastian's deep remarks upon this subject in Der Mensch in der
Geschichte, iii. Die Blutrache, pp. 1-36. A remainder of this
tribal habit, I am told by Professor E. Nys, has survived in
military executions till our own times. In the middle portion of
the nineteenth century it was the habit to load the rifles of the
twelve soldiers called out for shooting the condemned victim,
with eleven ball-cartridges and one blank cartridge. As the
soldiers never knew who of them had the latter, each one could
console his disturbed conscience by thinking that he was not one
of the murderers.
40 In Africa, and elsewhere too, it is a widely-spread habit,
that if a theft has been committed, the next clan has to restore
the equivalent of the stolen thing, and then look itself for the
thief. A. H. Post, Afrikanische Jurisprudenz, Leipzig, 1887, vol.
i. p. 77.
41 See Prof. M. Kovalevsky's Modern Customs and Ancient Law
(Russian), Moscow, 1886, vol. ii., which contains many important
considerations upon this subject.
42 See Carl Bock, The Head Hunters of Borneo, London, 1881. I am
told, however, by Sir Hugh Law, who was for a long time Governor
of Borneo, that the "head-hunting" described in this book is
grossly exaggerated. Altogether, my informant speaks of the
Dayaks in exactly the same sympathetic terms as Ida Pfeiffer. Let
me add that Mary Kingsley speaks in her book on West Africa in
the same sympathetic terms of the Fans, who had been represented
formerly as the most "terrible cannibals."
43 Ida Pfeiffer, Meine zweite Weltrieze, Wien, 1856, vol. i. pp.
116 seq. See also M?ller and Temminch's Dutch Possessions in
Archipelagic India, quoted by Elis?e Reclus, in G?ographie
Universelle, xiii.
44 Descent of Man, second ed., pp. 63, 64.
45 See Bastian's Mensch in der Geschichte, iii. p. 7. Also Grey,
loc. cit. ii. p. 238.
46 Miklukho-Maclay, loc. cit. Same habit with the Hottentots.


4. Mutual aid among the barbarians

Submitted by libcom on January 31, 2006

The great migrations. -- New organization rendered necessary. --
The village community. -- Communal work. -- Judicial procedure --
Inter-tribal law. -- Illustrations from the life of our
contemporaries -- Buryates. -- Kabyles. -- Caucasian
mountaineers. -- African stems.

It is not possible to study primitive mankind without being

deeply impressed by the sociability it has displayed since its

very first steps in life. Traces of human societies are found in

the relics of both the oldest and the later stone age; and, when

we come to observe the savages whose manners of life are still

those of neolithic man, we find them closely bound together by an

extremely ancient clan organization which enables them to combine

their individually weak forces, to enjoy life in common, and to

progress. Man is no exception in nature. He also is subject to

the great principle of Mutual Aid which grants the best chances

of survival to those who best support each other in the struggle

for life. These were the conclusions arrived at in the previous


However, as soon as we come to a higher stage of

civilization, and refer to history which already has something to

say about that stage, we are bewildered by the struggles and

conflicts which it reveals. The old bonds seem entirely to be

broken. Stems are seen to fight against stems, tribes against

tribes, individuals against individuals; and out of this chaotic

contest of hostile forces, mankind issues divided into castes,

enslaved to despots, separated into States always ready to wage

war against each other. And, with this history of mankind in his

hands, the pessimist philosopher triumphantly concludes that

warfare a nd oppression are the very essence of human nature;

that the warlike and predatory instincts of man can only be

restrained within certain limits by a strong authority which

enforces peace and thus gives an opportunity to the few and

nobler ones to prepare a better life for humanity in times to


And yet, as soon as the every-day life of man during the

historical period is submitted to a closer analysis and so it has

been, of late, by many patient students of very early

institutions -- it appears at once under quite a different

aspect. Leaving aside the preconceived ideas of most historians

and their pronounced predilection for the dramatic aspects of

history, we see that the very documents they habitually peruse

are such as to exaggerate the part of human life given to

struggles and to underrate its peaceful moods. The bright and

sunny days are lost sight of in the gales and storms. Even in our

own time, the cumbersome records which we prepare for the future

historian, in our Press, our law courts, our Government offices,

and even in our fiction and poetry, suffer from the same

one-sidedness. They hand down to posterity the most minute

descriptions of every war, every battle and skirmish, every

contest and act of violence, every kind of individual suffering;

but they hardly bear any trace of the countless acts of mutual

support and devotion which every one of us knows from his own

experience; they hardly. take notice of what makes the very

essence of our daily life -- our social instincts and manners. No

wonder, then, if the records of the past were so imperfect. The

annalists of old never failed to chronicle the petty wars and

calamities which harassed their contemporaries; but they paid no

attention whatever to the life of the masses, although the masses

chiefly used to toil peacefully while the few indulged in

fighting. The epic poems, the inscriptions on monuments, the

treaties of peace -- nearly all historical documents bear the

same character; they deal with breaches of peace, not with peace

itself. So that the best-intentioned historian unconsciously

draws a distorted picture of the times he endeavours to depict;

and, to restore the real proportion between conflict and union,

we are now bound to enter into a minute analysis of thousands of

small facts and faint indications accidentally preserved in the

relics of the past; to interpret them with the aid of comparative

ethnology; and, after having heard so much about what used to

divide men, to reconstruct stone by stone the institutions which

used to unite them.

Ere long history will have to be re-written on new lines, so

as to take into account these two currents of human life and to

appreciate the part played by each of them in evolution. But in

the meantime we may avail ourselves of the immense preparatory

work recently done towards restoring the leading features of the

second current, so much neglected. From the better-known periods

of history we may take some illustrations of the life of the

masses, in order to indicate the part played by mutual support

during those periods; and, in so doing, we may dispense (for the

sake of brevity) from going as far back as the Egyptian, or even

the Greek and Roman antiquity. For, in fact, the evolution of

mankind has not had the character of one unbroken series. Several

times civilization came to an end in one given region, with one

given race, and began anew elsewhere, among other races. But at

each fresh start it began again with the same clan institutions

which we have seen among the savages. So that if we take the last

start of our own civilization, when it began afresh in the first

centuries of our era, among those whom the Romans called the

"barbarians," we shall have the whole scale of evolution,

beginning with the gentes and ending in the institutions of our

own time. To these illustrations the following pages will be


Men of science have not yet settled upon the causes which

some two thousand years ago drove whole nations from Asia into

Europe and resulted in the great migrations of barbarians which

put an end to the West Roman Empire. One cause, however, is

naturally suggested to the geographer as he contemplates the

ruins of populous cities in the deserts of Central Asia, or

follows the old beds of rivers now disappeared and the wide

outlines of lakes now reduced to the size of mere ponds. It is

desiccation: a quite recent desiccation, continued still at a

speed which we formerly were not prepared to admit.1 Against

it man was powerless. When the inhabitants of North-West Mongolia

and East Turkestan saw that water was abandoning them, they had

no course open to them but to move down the broad valleys leading

to the lowlands, and to thrust westwards the inhabitants of the

plains.2 Stems after stems were thus thrown into Europe,

compelling other stems to move and to remove for centuries in

succession, westwards and eastwards, in search of new and more or

less permanent abodes. Races were mixing with races during those

migrations, aborigines with immigrants, Aryans with

Ural-Altayans; and it would have been no wonder if the social

institutions which had kept them together in their mother

countries had been totally wrecked during the stratification of

races which took place in Europe and Asia. But they were not

wrecked; they simply underwent the modification which was

required by the new conditions of life.

The Teutons, the Celts, the Scandinavians, the Slavonians,

and others, when they first came in contact with the Romans, were

in a transitional state of social organization. The clan unions,

based upon a real or supposed common origin, had kept them

together for many thousands of years in succession. But these

unions could answer their purpose so long only as there were no

separate families within the gens or clan itself. However, for

causes already mentioned, the separate patriarchal family had

slowly but steadily developed within the clans, and in the long

run it evidently meant the individual accumulation of wealth and

power, and the hereditary transmission of both. The frequent

migrations of the barbarians and the ensuing wars only hastened

the division of the gentes into separate families, while the

dispersing of stems and their mingling with strangers offered

singular facilities for the ultimate disintegration of those

unions which were based upon kinship. The barbarians thus stood

in a position of either seeing their clans dissolved into loose

aggregations of families, of which the wealthiest, especially if

combining sacerdotal functions or military repute with wealth,

would have succeeded in imposing their authority upon the others;

or of finding out some new form of organization based upon some

new principle.

Many stems had no force to resist disintegration: they broke

up and were lost for history. But the more vigorous ones did not

disintegrate. They came out of the ordeal with a new organization

-- the village community -- which kept them together for the next

fifteen centuries or more. The conception of a common territory,

appropriated or protected by common efforts, was elaborated, and

it took the place of the vanishing conceptions of common descent.

The common gods gradually lost their character of ancestors and

were endowed with a local territorial character. They became the

gods or saints of a given locality; "the land" was identified

with its inhabitants. Territorial unions grew up instead of the

consanguine unions of old, and this new organization evidently

offered many advantages under the given circumstances. It

recognized the independence of the family and even emphasized it,

the village community disclaiming all rights of interference in

what was going on within the family enclosure; it gave much more

freedom to personal initiative; it was not hostile in principle

to union between men of different descent, and it maintained at

the same time the necessary cohesion of action and thought, while

it was strong enough to oppose the dominative tendencies of the

minorities of wizards, priests, and professional or distinguished

warriors. Consequently it became the primary cell of future

organization, and with many nations the village community has

retained this character until now.

It is now known, and scarcely contested, that the village

community was not a specific feature of the Slavonians, nor even

of the ancient Teutons. It prevailed in England during both the

Saxon and Norman times, and partially survived till the last

century;3 it was at the bottom of the social organization of

old Scotland, old Ireland, and old Wales. In France, the communal

possession and the communal allotment of arable land by the

village folkmote persisted from the first centuries of our era

till the times of Turgot, who found the folkmotes "too noisy" and

therefore abolished them. It survived Roman rule in Italy, and

revived after the fall of the Roman Empire. It was the rule with

the Scandinavians, the Slavonians, the Finns (in the pitt?y?, as

also, probably, the kihla-kunta), the Coures, and the lives. The

village community in India -- past and present, Aryan and

non-Aryan -- is well known through the epoch-making works of Sir

Henry Maine; and Elphinstone has described it among the Afghans.

We also find it in the Mongolian oulous, the Kabyle thaddart, the

Javanese dessa, the Malayan kota or tofa, and under a variety of

names in Abyssinia, the Soudan, in the interior of Africa, with

natives of both Americas, with all the small and large tribes of

the Pacific archipelagoes. In short, we do not know one single

human race or one single nation which has not had its period of

village communities. This fact alone disposes of the theory

according to which the village community in Europe would have

been a servile growth. It is anterior to serfdom, and even

servile submission was powerless to break it. It was a universal

phase of evolution, a natural outcome of the clan organization,

with all those stems, at least, which have played, or play still,

some part in history.4

It was a natural growth, and an absolute uniformity in its

structure was therefore not possible. As a rule, it was a union

between families considered as of common descent and owning a

certain territory in common. But with some stems, and under

certain circumstances, the families used to grow very numerous

before they threw off new buds in the shape of new families;

five, six, or seven generations continued to live under the same

roof, or within the same enclosure, owning their joint household

and cattle in common, and taking their meals at the common

hearth. They kept in such case to what ethnology knows as the

"joint family," or the "undivided household," which we still see

all over China, in India, in the South Slavonian zadruga, and

occasionally find in Africa, in America, in Denmark, in North

Russia, and West France.5 With other stems, or in other

circumstances, not yet well specified, the families did not

attain the same proportions; the grandsons, and occasionally the

sons, left the household as soon as they were married, and each

of them started a new cell of his own. But, joint or not,

clustered together or scattered in the woods, the families

remained united into village communities; several villages were

grouped into tribes; and the tribes joined into confederations.

Such was the social organization which developed among the

so-called "barbarians," when they began to settle more or less

permanently in Europe.

A very long evolution was required before the gentes, or

clans, recognized the separate existence of a patriarchal family

in a separate hut; but even after that had been recognized, the

clan, as a rule, knew no personal inheritance of property. The

few things which might have belonged personally to the individual

were either destroyed on his grave or buried with him. The

village community, on the contrary, fully recognized the private

accumulation of wealth within the family and its hereditary

transmission. But wealth was conceived exclusively in the shape

of movable property, including cattle, implements, arms, and the

dwelling house which -- "like all things that can be destroyed by

fire" -- belonged to the same category6. As to private

property in land, the village community did not, and could not,

recognize anything of the kind, and, as a rule, it does not

recognize it now. The land was the common property of the tribe,

or of the whole stem, and the village community itself owned its

part of the tribal territory so long only as the tribe did not

claim a re-distribution of the village allotments. The clearing

of the woods and the breaking of the prairies being mostly done

by the communities or, at least, by the joint work of several

families -- always with the consent of the community -- the

cleared plots were held by each family for a term of four,

twelve, or twenty years, after which term they were treated as

parts of the arable land owned in common. Private property, or

possession "for ever" was as incompatible, with the very

principles and the religious conceptions of the village community

as it was with the principles of the gens; so that a long

influence of the Roman law and the Christian Church, which soon

accepted the Roman principles, were required to accustom the

barbarians to the idea of private property in land being

possible.7 And yet, even when such property, or possession for

an unlimited time, was recognized, the owner of a separate estate

remained a co-proprietor in the waste lands, forests, and

grazing-grounds. Moreover, we continually see, especially in the

history of Russia, that when a few families, acting separately,

had taken possession of some land belonging to tribes which were

treated as strangers, they very soon united together, and

constituted a village community which in the third or fourth

generation began to profess a community of origin.

A whole series of institutions, partly inherited from the

clan period, have developed from that basis of common ownership

of land during the long succession of centuries which was

required to bring the barbarians under the dominion of States

organized upon the Roman or Byzantine pattern. The village

community was not only a union for guaranteeing to each one his

fair. share in the common land, but also a union for common

culture, for mutual support in all possible forms, for protection

from violence, and for a further development of knowledge,

national bonds, and moral conceptions; and every change in the

judicial, military, educational, or economical manners had to be

decided at the folkmotes of the village, the tribe, or the

confederation. The community being a continuation of the gens, it

inherited all its functions. It was the universitas, the mir -- a

world in itself.

Common hunting, common fishing, and common culture of the

orchards or the plantations of fruit trees was the rule with the

old gentes. Common agriculture became the rule in the barbarian

village communities. True, that direct testimony to this effect

is scarce, and in the literature of antiquity we only have the

passages of Diodorus and Julius Caesar relating to the

inhabitants of the Lipari Islands, one of the Celt-Iberian

tribes, and the Sueves. But there is no lack of evidence to prove

that common agriculture was practised among some Teuton tribes,

the Franks, and the old Scotch, Irish, and Welsh.8 As to the

later survivals of the same practice, they simply are countless.

Even in perfectly Romanized France, common culture was habitual

some five and twenty years ago in the Morbihan (Brittany).9

The old Welsh cyvar, or joint team, as well as the common culture

of the land allotted to the use of the village sanctuary are

quite common among the tribes of Caucasus the least touched by

civilization,10 and like facts are of daily occurrence among

the Russian peasants. Moreover, it is well known that many tribes

of Brazil, Central America, and Mexico used to cultivate their

fields in common, and that the same habit is widely spread among

some Malayans, in New Caledonia, with several Negro stems, and so

on.11 In short, communal culture is so habitual with many

Aryan, Ural-Altayan, Mongolian, Negro, Red Indian, Malayan, and

Melanesian stems that we must consider it as a universal --

though not as the only possible -- form of primitive


Communal cultivation does not, however, imply by necessity

communal consumption. Already under the clan organization we

often see that when the boats laden with fruits or fish return to

the village, the food they bring in is divided among the huts and

the "long houses" inhabited by either several families or the

youth, and is cooked separately at each separate hearth. The

habit of taking meals in a narrower circle of relatives or

associates thus prevails at an early period of clan life. It

became the rule in the village community. Even the food grown in

common was usually divided between the households after part of

it had been laid in store for communal use. However, the

tradition of communal meals was piously kept alive; every

available opportunity, such as the commemoration of the

ancestors, the religious festivals, the beginning and the end of

field work, the births, the marriages, and the funerals, being

seized upon to bring the community to a common meal. Even now

this habit, well known in this country as the "harvest supper,"

is the last to disappear. On the other hand, even when the fields

had long since ceased to be tilled and sown in common, a variety

of agricultural work continued, and continues still, to be

performed by the community. Some part of the communal land is

still cultivated in many cases in common, either for the use of

the destitute, or for refilling the communal stores, or for using

the produce at the religious festivals. The irrigation canals are

digged and repaired in common. The communal meadows are mown by

the community; and the sight of a Russian commune mowing a meadow

-- the men rivalling each other in their advance with the scythe,

while the women turn the grass over and throw it up into heaps --

is one of the most inspiring sights; it shows what human work

might be and ought to be. The hay, in such case, is divided among

the separate households, and it is evident that no one has the

right of taking hay from a neighbour's stack without his

permission; but the limitation of this last rule among the

Caucasian Ossetes is most noteworthy. When the cuckoo cries and

announces that spring is coming, and that the meadows will soon

be clothed again with grass, every one in need has the right of

taking from a neighbour's stack the hay he wants for his

cattle.13 The old communal rights are thus re-asserted, as if

to prove how contrary unbridled individualism is to human nature.

When the European traveller lands in some small island of the

Pacific, and, seeing at a distance a grove of palm trees, walks

in that direction, he is astonished to discover that the little

villages are connected by roads paved with big stones, quite

comfortable for the unshod natives, and very similar to the "old

roads" of the Swiss mountains. Such roads were traced by the

"barbarians" all over Europe, and one must have travelled in

wild, thinly-peopled countries, far away from the chief lines of

communication, to realize in full the immense work that must have

been performed by the barbarian communities in order to conquer

the woody and marshy wilderness which Europe was some two

thousand years ago. Isolated families, having no tools, and weak

as they were, could not have conquered it; the wilderness would

have overpowered them. Village communities alone, working in

common, could master the wild forests, the sinking marshes, and

the endless steppes. The rough roads, the ferries, the wooden

bridges taken away in the winter and rebuilt after the spring

flood was over, the fences and the palisaded walls of the

villages, the earthen forts and the small towers with which the

territory was dottedall these were the work of the barbarian

communities. And when a community grew numerous it used to throw

off a new bud. A new community arose at a distance, thus step by

step bringing the woods and the steppes Under the dominion of

man. The whole making of European nations was such a budding of

the village communities. Even now-a-days the Russian peasants, if

they are not quite broken down by misery, migrate in communities,

and they till the soil and build the houses in com mon when they

settle on the banks of the Amur, or in Manitoba. And even the

English, when they first began to colonize America, used to

return to the old system; they grouped into village


The village community was the chief arm of the barbarians in

their hard struggle against a hostile nature. It also was the

bond they opposed to oppression by the cunningest and the

strongest which so easily might have developed during those

disturbed times. The imaginary barbarian -- the man who fights

and kills at his mere caprice -- existed no more than the

"bloodthirsty" savage. The real barbarian was living, on the

contrary, under a wide series of institutions, imbued with

considerations as to what may be useful or noxious to his tribe

or confederation, and these institutions were piously handed down

from generation to generation in verses and songs, in proverbs or

triads, in sentences and instructions. The more we study them the

more we recognize the narrow bonds which united men in their

villages. Every quarrel arising between two individuals was

treated as a communal affair -- even the offensive words that

might have been uttered during a quarrel being considered as an

offence to the community and its ancestors. They had to be

repaired by amends made both to the individual and the

community;15 and if a quarrel ended in a fight and wounds, the

man who stood by and did not interpose was treated as if he

himself had inflicted the wounds.16 The judicial procedure was

imbued with the same spirit. Every dispute was brought first

before mediators or arbiters, and it mostly ended with them, the

arbiters playing a very important part in barbarian society. But

if the case was too grave to be settled in this way, it came

before the folkmote, which was bound "to find the sentence," and

pronounced it in a conditional form; that is, "such compensation

was due, if the wrong be proved," and the wrong had to be proved

or disclaimed by six or twelve persons confirming or denying the

fact by oath; ordeal being resorted to in case of contradiction

between the two sets of jurors. Such procedure, which remained in

force for more than two thousand years in succession, speaks

volumes for itself; it shows how close were the bonds between all

members of the community. Moreover, there was no other authority

to enforce the decisions of the folkmote besides its own moral

authority. The only possible menace was that the community might

declare the rebel an outlaw, but even this menace was reciprocal.

A man discontented with the folkmote could declare that he would

abandon the tribe and go over to another tribe -- a most dreadful

menace, as it was sure to bring all kinds of misfortunes upon a

tribe that might have been unfair to one of its members.17 A

rebellion against a right decision of the customary law was

simply "inconceivable," as Henry Maine has so well said, because

"law, morality, and fact" could not be separated from each other

in those times.18 The moral authority of the commune was so

great that even at a much later epoch, when the village

communities fell into submission to the feudal lord, they

maintained their judicial powers; they only permitted the lord,

or his deputy, to "find" the above conditional sentence in

accordance with the customary law he had sworn to follow, and to

levy for himself the fine (the fred) due to the commune. But for

a long time, the lord himself, if he remained a co-proprietor in

the waste land of the commune, submitted in communal affairs to

its decisions. Noble or ecclesiastic, he had to submit to the

folkmote -- Wer daselbst Wasser und Weid genusst, muss gehorsam

sein -- "Who enjoys here the right of water and pasture must

obey" -- was the old saying. Even when the peasants became serfs

under the lord, he was bound to appear before the folkmote when

they summoned him.19

In their conceptions of justice the barbarians evidently did

not much differ from the savages. They also maintained the idea

that a murder must be followed by putting the murderer to death;

that wounds had to be punished by equal wounds, and that the

wronged family was bound to fulfil the sentence of the customary

law. This was a holy duty, a duty towards the ancestors, which

had to be accomplished in broad daylight, never in secrecy, and

rendered widely known. Therefore the most inspired passages of

the sagas and epic poetry altogether are those which glorify what

was supposed to be justice. The gods themselves joined in aiding

it. However, the predominant feature of barbarian justice is, on

the one hand, to limit the numbers of persons who may be involved

in a feud, and, on the other hand, to extirpate the brutal idea

of blood for blood and wounds for wounds, by substituting for it

the system of compensation. The barbarian codes which were

collections of common law rules written down for the use of

judges -- "first permitted, then encouraged, and at last

enforced," compensation instead of revenge.20 The compensation

has, however, been totally misunderstood by those who represented

it as a fine, and as a sort of carte blanche given to the rich

man to do whatever he liked. The compensation money (wergeld),

which was quite different from the fine or fred,21 was

habitually so high for all kinds of active offences that it

certainly was no encouragement for such offences. In case of a

murder it usually exceeded all the possible fortune of the

murderer "Eighteen times eighteen cows" is the compensation with

the Ossetes who do not know how to reckon above eighteen, while

with the African tribes it attains 800 cows or 100 camels with

their young, or 416 sheep in the poorer tribes.22 In the great

majority of cases, the compensation money could not be paid at

all, so that the murderer had no issue but to induce the wronged

family, by repentance, to adopt him. Even now, in the Caucasus,

when feuds come to an end, the offender touches with his lips the

breast of the oldest woman of the tribe, and becomes a

"milk-brother" to all men of the wronged family.23 With

several African tribes he must give his daughter, or sister, in

marriage to some one of the family; with other tribes he is bound

to marry the woman whom he has made a widow; and in all cases he

becomes a member of the family, whose opinion is taken in all

important family matters.24

Far from acting with disregard to human life, the barbarians,

moreover, knew nothing of the horrid punishments introduced at a

later epoch by the laic and canonic laws under Roman and

Byzantine influence. For, if the Saxon code admitted the death

penalty rather freely even in cases of incendiarism and armed

robbery, the other barbarian codes pronounced it exclusively in

cases of betrayal of one's kin, and sacrilege against the

community's gods, as the only means to appease the gods.

All this, as seen is very far from the supposed "moral

dissoluteness" of the barbarians. On the contrary, we cannot but

admire the deeply moral principles elaborated within the early

village communities which found their expression in Welsh triads,

in legends about King Arthur, in Brehon commentaries,25 in old

German legends and so on, or find still their expression in the

sayings of the modern barbarians. In his introduction to The

Story of Burnt Njal, George Dasent very justly sums up as follows

the qualities of a Northman, as they appear in the sagas: --

To do what lay before him openly and like a man, without fear

of either foes, fiends, or fate;... to be free and daring in all

his deeds; to be gentle and generous to his friends and kinsmen;

to be stern and grim to his foes [those who are under the lex

talionis], but even towards them to fulfil all bounden duties....

To be no truce-breaker, nor tale-bearer, nor backbiter. To utter

nothing against any man that he would not dare to tell him to his

face. To turn no man from his door who sought food or shelter,

even though he were a foe.26

The same or still better principles permeate the Welsh epic

poetry and triads. To act "according to the nature of mildness

and the principles of equity," without regard to the foes or to

the friends, and "to repair the wrong," are the highest duties of

man; "evil is death, good is life," exclaims the poet

legislator.27 "The World would be fool, if agreements made on

lips were not honourable" -- the Brehon law says. And the humble

Shamanist Mordovian, after having praised the same qualities,

will add, moreover, in his principles of customary law, that

"among neighbours the cow and the milking-jar are in common."

that, "the cow must be milked for yourself and him who may ask

milk;" that "the body of a child reddens from the stroke, but the

face of him who strikes reddens from shame;"28 and so on. Many

pages might be filled with like principles expressed and followed

by the "barbarians."

One feature more of the old village communities deserves a

special mention. It is the gradual extension of the circle of men

embraced by the feelings of solidarity. Not only the tribes

federated into stems, but the stems as well, even though of

different origin, joined together in confederations. Some unions

were so close that, for instance, the Vandals, after part of

their confederation had left for the Rhine, and thence went over

to Spain and Africa, respected for forty consecutive years the

landmarks and the abandoned villages of their confederates, and

did not take possession of them until they had ascertained

through envoys that their confederates did not intend to return.

With other barbarians, the soil was cultivated by one part of the

stem, while the other part fought on or beyond the frontiers of

the common territory. As to the leagues between several stems,

they were quite habitual. The Sicambers united with the

Cherusques and the Sueves, the Quades with the Sarmates; the

Sarmates with the Alans, the Carpes, and the Huns. Later on, we

also see the conception of nations gradually developing in

Europe, long before anything like a State had grown in any part

of the continent occupied by the barbarians. These nations -- for

it is impossible to refuse the name of a nation to the

Merovingian France, or to the Russia of the eleventh and twelfth

century -- were nevertheless kept together by nothing else but a

community of language, and a tacit agreement of the small

republics to take their dukes from none but one special family.

Wars were certainly unavoidable; migration means war; but Sir

Henry Maine has already fully proved in his remarkable study of

the tribal origin of International Law, that "Man has never been

so ferocious or so stupid as to submit to such an evil as war

without some kind of effort to prevent it," and he has shown how

exceedingly great is "the number of ancient institutions which

bear the marks of a design to stand in the way of war, or to

provide an alternative to it."29 In reality, man is so far

from the warlike being he is supposed to be, that when the

barbarians had once settled they so rapidly lost the very habits

of warfare that very soon they were compelled to keep special

dukes followed by special scholae or bands of warriors, in order

to protect them from possible intruders. They preferred peaceful

toil to war, the very peacefulness of man being the cause of the

specialization of the warrior's trade, which specialization

resulted later on in serfdom and in all the wars of the "States

period" of human history.

History finds great difficulties in restoring to life the

institutions of the barbarians. At every step the historian meets

with some faint indication which he is unable to explain with the

aid of his own documents only. But a broad light is thrown on the

past as soon as we refer to the institutions of the very numerous

tribes which are still living under a social organization almost

identical with that of our barbarian ancestors. Here we simply

have the difficulty of choice, because the islands of the

Pacific, the steppes of Asia, and the tablelands of Africa are

real historical museums containing specimens of all possible

intermediate stages which mankind has lived through, when passing

from the savage gentes up to the States' organization. Let us,

then, examine a few of those specimens.

If we take the village communities of the Mongol Buryates,

especially those of the Kudinsk Steppe on the upper Lena which

have better escaped Russian influence, we have fair

representatives of barbarians in a transitional state, between

cattle-breeding and agriculture.30 These Buryates are still

living in "joint families"; that is, although each son, when he

is married, goes to live in a separate hut, the huts of at least

three generations remain within the same enclosure, and the joint

family work in common in their fields, and own in common their

joint households and their cattle, as well as their "calves'

grounds" (small fenced patches of soil kept under soft grass for

the rearing of calves). As a rule, the meals are taken separately

in each hut; but when meat is roasted, all the twenty to sixty

members of the joint household feast together. Several joint

households which live in a cluster, as well as several smaller

families settled in the same village -- mostly d?bris of joint

households accidentally broken up -- make the oulous, or the

village community. several oulouses make a tribe; and the,

forty-six tribes, or clans, of the Kudinsk Steppe are united into

one confederation. Smaller and closer confederations are entered

into, as necessity arises for special wants, by several tribes.

They know no private property in land -- the land being held in

common by the oulous, or rather by the confederation, and if it

becomes necessary, the territory is re-allotted between the

different oulouses at a folkmote of the tribe, and between the

forty-six tribes at a folkmote of the confederation. It is worthy

of note that the same organization prevails among all the 250,000

Buryates of East Siberia, although they have been for three

centuries under Russian rule, and are well acquainted with

Russian institutions.

With all that, inequalities of fortune rapidly develop among

the Buryates, especially since the Russian Government is giving

an exaggerated importance to their elected taishas (princes),

whom it considers as responsible tax-collectors and

representatives of the confederations in their administrative and

even commercial relations with the Russians. The channels for the

enrichment of the few are thus many, while the impoverishment of

the great number goes hand in hand, through the appropriation of

the Buryate lands by the Russians. But it is a habit with the

Buryates, especially those of Kudinsk -- and habit is more than

law -- that if a family has lost its cattle, the richer families

give it some cows and horses that it may recover. As to the

destitute man who has no family, he takes his meals in the huts

of his congeners; he enters a hut, takes -- by right, not for

charity -- his seat by the fire, and shares the meal which always

is scrupulously divided into equal parts; he sleeps where he has

taken his evening meal. Altogether, the Russian conquerors of

Siberia were so much struck by the communistic practices of the

Buryates, that they gave them the name of Bratskiye -- "the

Brotherly Ones" -- and reported to Moscow. "With them everything

is in common; whatever they have is shared in common." Even now,

when the Lena Buryates sell their wheat, or send some of their

cattle to be sold to a Russian butcher, the families of the

oulous, or the tribe, put their wheat and cattle together, and

sell it as a whole. Each oulous has, moreover, its grain store

for loans in case of need, its communal baking oven (the four

banal of the old French communities), and its blacksmith, who,

like the blacksmith of the Indian communities,31 being a

member of the community, is never paid for his work within the

community. He must make it for nothing, and if he utilizes his

spare time for fabricating the small plates of chiselled and

silvered iron which are used in Buryate land for the decoration

of dress, he may occasionally sell them to a woman from another

clan, but to the women of his own clan the attire is presented as

a gift. Selling and buying cannot take place within the

community, and the rule is so severe that when a richer family

hires a labourer the labourer must be taken from another clan or

from among the Russians. This habit is evidently not specific to

the Buryates; it is so widely spread among the modern barbarians,

Aryan and Ural-Altayan, that it must have been universal among

our ancestors.

The feeling of union within the confederation is kept alive

by the common interests of the tribes, their folkmotes, and the

festivities which are usually kept in connection with the

folkmotes. The same feeling is, however, maintained by another

institution, the aba, or common hunt, which is a reminiscence of

a very remote past. Every autumn, the forty-six clans of Kudinsk

come together for such a hunt, the produce of which is divided

among all the families. Moreover, national abas, to assert the

unity of the whole Buryate nation, are convoked from time to

time. In such cases, all Buryate clans which are scattered for

hundreds of miles west and east of Lake Baikal, are bound to send

their delegate hunters. Thousands of men come together, each one

bringing provisions for a whole month. Every one's share must be

equal to all the others, and therefore, before being put

together, they are weighed by an elected elder (always "with the

hand": scales would be a profanation of the old custom). After

that the hunters divide into bands of twenty, and the parties go

hunting according to a well-settled plan. In such abas the entire

Buryate nation revives its epic traditions of a time when it was

united in a powerful league. Let me add that such communal hunts

are quite usual with the Red Indians and the Chinese on the banks

of the Usuri (the kada).32

With the Kabyles, whose manners of life have been so well

described by two French explorers,33 we have barbarians still

more advanced in agriculture. Their fields, irrigated and

manured, are well attended to, and in the hilly tracts every

available plot of land is cultivated by the spade. The Kabyles

have known many vicissitudes in their history; they have followed

for sometime the Mussulman law of inheritance, but, being adverse

to it, they have returned, 150 years ago, to the tribal customary

law of old. Accordingly, their land-tenure is of a mixed

character, and private property in land exists side by side with

communal possession. Still, the basis of their present

organization is the village community, the thaddart, which

usually consists of several joint families (kharoubas), claiming

a community of origin, as well as of smaller families of

strangers. Several villages are grouped into clans or tribes

(?rch); several tribes make the confederation (thak'ebilt); and

several confederations may occasionally enter into a league,

chiefly for purposes of armed defence.

The Kabyles know no authority whatever besides that of the

djemm?a, or folkmote of the village community. All men of age

take part in it, in the open air, or in a special building

provided with stone seats. and the decisions of the djemm?a are

evidently taken at unanimity: that is, the discussions continue

until all present agree to accept, or to submit to, some

decision. There being no authority in a village community to

impose a decision, this system has been practised by mankind

wherever there have been village communities, and it is practised

still wherever they continue to exist, i.e. by several hundred

million men all over the world. The djemm?a nominates its

executive -- the elder, the scribe, and the treasurer; it

assesses its own taxes; and it manages the repartition of the

common lands, as well as all kinds of works of public utility. A

great deal of work is done in common: the roads, the mosques, the

fountains, the irrigation canals, the towers erected for

protection from robbers, the fences, and so on, are built by the

village community; while the high-roads, the larger mosques, and

the great market-places are the work of the tribe. Many traces of

common culture continue to exist, and the houses continue to be

built by, or with the aid of, all men and women of the village.

Altogether, the "aids" are of daily occurrence, and are

continually called in for the cultivation of the fields, for

harvesting, and so on. As to the skilled work, each community has

its blacksmith, who enjoys his part of the communal land, and

works for the community; when the tilling season approaches he

visits every house, and repairs the tools and the ploughs,

without expecting any pay, while the making of new ploughs is

considered as a pious work which can by no means be recompensed

in money, or by any other form of salary.

As the Kabyles already have private property, they evidently

have both rich and poor among them. But like all people who

closely live together, and know how poverty begins, they consider

it as an accident which may visit every one. "Don't say that you

will never wear the beggar's bag, nor go to prison," is a proverb

of the Russian peasants; the Kabyles practise it, and no

difference can be detected in the external behaviour between rich

and poor; when the poor convokes an "aid," the rich man works in

his field, just as the poor man does it reciprocally in his

turn.34 Moreover, the djemm?as set aside certain gardens and

fields, sometimes cultivated in common, for the use of the

poorest members. Many like customs continue to exist. As the

poorer families would not be able to buy meat, meat is regularly

bought with the money of the fines, or the gifts to the djemm?a,

or the payments for the use of the communal olive-oil basins, and

it is distributed in equal parts among those who cannot afford

buying meat themselves. And when a sheep or a bullock is killed

by a family for its own use on a day which is not a market day,

the fact is announced in the streets by the village crier, in

order that sick people and pregnant women may take of it what

they want. Mutual support permeates the life of the Kabyles, and

if one of them, during a journey abroad, meets with another

Kabyle in need, he is bound to come to his aid, even at the risk

of his own fortune and life; if this has not been done, the

djemm?a of the man who has suffered from such neglect may lodge a

complaint, and the djemm?a of the selfish man will at once make

good the loss. We thus come across a custom which is familiar to

the students of the mediaeval merchant guilds. Every stranger who

enters a Kabyle village has right to housing in the winter, and

his horses can always graze on the communal lands for twenty-four

hours. But in case of need he can reckon upon an almost unlimited

support. Thus, during the famine of 1867-68, the Kabyles received

and fed every one who sought refuge in their villages, without

distinction of origin. In the district of Dellys, no less than

12,000 people who came from all parts of Algeria, and even from

Morocco, were fed in this way. While people died from starvation

all over Algeria, there was not one single case of death due to

this cause on Kabylian soil. The djemm?as, depriving themselves

of necessaries, organized relief, without ever asking any aid

from the Government, or uttering the slightest complaint; they

considered it as a natural duty. And while among the European

settlers all kind of police measures were taken to prevent thefts

and disorder resulting from such an influx of strangers, nothing

of the kind was required on the Kabyles' territory: the djemm?as

needed neither aid nor protection from without.35

I can only cursorily mention two other most interesting

features of Kabyle life; namely, the anaya, or protection granted

to wells, canals, mosques, marketplaces, some roads, and so on,

in case of war, and the ?ofs. In the anaya we have a series of

institutions both for diminishing the evils of war and for

preventing conflicts. Thus the market-place is anaya, especially

if it stands on a frontier and brings Kabyles and strangers

together; no one dares disturb peace in the market, and if a

disturbance arises, it is quelled at once by the strangers who

have gathered in the market town. The road upon which the women

go from the village to the fountain also is anaya in case of war;

and so on. As to the ?of it is a widely spread form of

association, having some characters of the mediaeval B?rgschaften

or Gegilden, as well as of societies both for mutual protection

and for various purposes -- intellectual, political, and

emotional -- which cannot be satisfied by the territorial

organization of the village, the clan, and the con federation.

The ?of knows no territorial limits; it recruits its members in

various villages, even among strangers; and it protects them in

all possible eventualities of life. Altogether, it is an attempt

at supplementing the territorial grouping by an extra-territorial

grouping intended to give an expression to mutual affinities of

all kinds across the frontiers. The free international

association of individual tastes and ideas, which we consider as

one of the best features of our own life, has thus its origin in

barbarian antiquity.

The mountaineers of Caucasia offer another extremely

instructive field for illustrations of the same kind. In studying

the present customs of the Ossetes -- their joint families and

communes and their judiciary conceptions -- Professor Kovalevsky,

in a remarkable work on Modern Custom and Ancient Law was enabled

step by step to trace the similar dispositions of the old

barbarian codes and even to study the origins of feudalism. With

other Caucasian stems we occasionally catch a glimpse into the

origin of the village community in those cases where it was not

tribal but originated from a voluntary union between families of

distinct origin. Such was recently the case with some Khevsoure

villages, the inhabitants of which took the oath of "community

and fraternity."36 In another part of Caucasus, Daghestan, we

see the growth of feudal relations between two tribes, both

maintaining at the same time their village communities (and even

traces of the gentile "classes"), and thus giving a living

illustration of the forms taken by the conquest of Italy and Gaul

by the barbarians. The victorious race, the Lezghines, who have

conquered several Georgian and Tartar villages in the Zakataly

district, did not bring them under the dominion of separate

families; they constituted a feudal clan which now includes

12,000 households in three villages, and owns in common no less

than twenty Georgian and Tartar villages. The conquerors divided

their own land among their clans, and the clans divided it in

equal parts among the families; but they did not interfere with

the djemm?as of their tributaries which still practise the habit

mentioned by Julius Caesar; namely, the djemm?a decides each year

which part of the communal territory must be cultivated, and this

land is divided into as many parts as there are families, and the

parts are distributed by lot. It is worthy of note that although

proletarians are of common occurrence among the Lezghines (who

live under a system of private property in land, and common

ownership of serfs37) they are rare among their Georgian

serfs, who continue to hold their land in common. As to the

customary law of the Caucasian mountaineers, it is much the same

as that of the Longobards or Salic Franks, and several of its

dispositions explain a good deal the judicial procedure of the

barbarians of old. Being of a very impressionable character, they

do their best to prevent quarrels from taking a fatal issue; so,

with the Khevsoures, the swords are very soon drawn when a

quarrel breaks out; but if a woman rushes out and throws among

them the piece of linen which she wears on her head, the swords

are at once returned to their sheaths, and the quarrel is

appeased. The head-dress of the women is anaya. If a quarrel has

not been stopped in time and has ended in murder, the

compensation money is so considerable that the aggressor is

entirely ruined for his life, unless he is adopted by the wronged

family; and if he has resorted to his sword in a trifling quarrel

and has inflicted wounds, he loses for ever the consideration of

his kin. In all disputes, mediators take the matter in hand; they

select from among the members of the clan the judges -- six in

smaller affairs, and from ten to fifteen in more serious matters

-- and Russian observers testify to the absolute incorruptibility

of the judges. An oath has such a significance that men enjoying

general esteem are dispensed from taking it: a simple affirmation

is quite sufficient, the more so as in grave affairs the

Khevsoure never hesitates to recognize his guilt (I mean, of

course, the Khevsoure untouched yet by civilization). The oath is

chiefly reserved for such cases, like disputes about property,

which require some sort of appreciation in addition to a simple

statement of facts; and in such cases the men whose affirmation

will decide in the dispute, act with the greatest circumspection.

Altogether it is certainly not a want of honesty or of respect to

the rights of the congeners which characterizes the barbarian

societies of Caucasus.

The stems of Africa offer such an immense variety of

extremely interesting societies standing at all intermediate

stages from the early village community to the despotic barbarian

monarchies that I must abandon the idea of giving here even the

chief results of a comparative study of their institutions.38

Suffice it to say, that, even under the most horrid despotism of

kings, the folkmotes of the village communities and their

customary law remain sovereign in a wide circle of affairs. The

law of the State allows the king to take any one's life for a

simple caprice, or even for simply satisfying his gluttony; but

the customary law of the people continues to maintain the same

network of institutions for mutual support which exist among

other barbarians or have existed among our ancestors. And with

some better-favoured stems (in Bornu, Uganda, Abyssinia), and

especially the Bogos, some of the dispositions of the customary

law are inspired with really graceful and delicate feelings.

The village communities of the natives of both Americas have

the same character. The Tupi of Brazil were found living in "long

houses" occupied by whole clans which used to cultivate their

corn and manioc fields in common. The Arani, much more advanced

in civilization, used to cultivate their fields in common; so

also the Oucagas, who had learned under their system of primitive

communism and "long houses" to build good roads and to carry on a

variety of domestic industries,39 not inferior to those of the

early medieval times in Europe. All of them were also living

under the same customary law of which we have given specimens on

the preceding pages. At another extremity of the world we find

the Malayan feudalism, but this feudalism has been powerless to

unroot the negaria, or village community, with its common

ownership of at least part of the land, and the redistribution of

land among the several negarias of the tribe.40 With the

Alfurus of Minahasa we find the communal rotation of the crops;

with the Indian stem of the Wyandots we have the periodical

redistribution of land within the tribe, and the clan-culture of

the soil; and in all those parts of Sumatra where Moslem

institutions have not yet totally destroyed the old organization

we find the joint family (suka) and the village community (kota)

which maintains its right upon the land, even if part of it has

been cleared without its authorization.41 But to say this, is

to say that all customs for mutual protection and prevention of

feuds and wars, which have been briefly indicated in the

preceding pages as characteristic of the village community, exist

as well. More than that: the more fully the communal possession

of land has been maintained, the better and the gentler are the

habits. De Stuers positively affirms that wherever the

institution of the village community has been less encroached

upon by the conquerors, the inequalities of fortunes are smaller,

and the very prescriptions of the lex talionis are less cruel;

while, on the contrary, wherever the village community has been

totally broken up, "the inhabitants suffer the most unbearable

oppression from their despotic rulers."42 This is quite

natural. And when Waitz made the remark that those stems which

have maintained their tribal confederations stand on a higher

level of development and have a richer literature than those

stems which have forfeited the old bonds of union, he only

pointed out what might have been foretold in advance.

More illustrations would simply involve me in tedious

repetitions -- so strikingly similar are the barbarian societies

under all climates and amidst all races. The same process of

evolution has been going on in mankind with a wonderful

similarity. When the clan organization, assailed as it was from

within by the separate family, and from without by the

dismemberment of the migrating clans and the necessity of taking

in strangers of different descent -- the village community, based

upon a territorial conception, came into existence. This new

institution, which had naturally grown out of the preceding one

-- the clan -- permitted the barbarians to pass through a most

disturbed period of history without being broken into isolated

families which would have succumbed in the struggle for life. New

forms of culture developed under the new organization;

agriculture attained the stage which it hardly has surpassed

until now with the great number; the domestic industries reached

a high degree of perfection. The wilderness was conquered, it was

intersected by roads, dotted with swarms thrown off by the

mother-communities. Markets and fortified centres, as well as

places of public worship, were erected. The conceptions of a

wider union, extended to whole stems and to several stems of

various origin, were slowly elaborated. The old conceptions of

justice which were conceptions of mere revenge, slowly underwent

a deep modification -- the idea of amends for the wrong done

taking the place of revenge. The customary law which still makes

the law of the daily life for two-thirds or more of mankind, was

elaborated under that organization, as well as a system of habits

intended to prevent the oppression of the masses by the

minorities whose powers grew in proportion to the growing

facilities for private accumulation of wealth. This was the new

form taken by the tendencies of the masses for mutual support.

And the progress -- economical, intellectual, and moral -- which

mankind accomplished under this new popular form of organization,

was so great that the States, when they were called later on into

existence, simply took possession, in the interest of the

minorities, of all the judicial, economical, and administrative

functions which the village community already had exercised in

the interest of all.

1 Numberless traces of post-pliocene lakes, now disappeared, are
found over Central, West, and North Asia. Shells of the same
species as those now found in the Caspian Sea are scattered over
the surface of the soil as far East as half-way to Lake Aral, and
are found in recent deposits as far north as Kazan. Traces of
Caspian Gulfs, formerly taken for old beds of the Amu, intersect
the Turcoman territory. Deduction must surely be made for
temporary, periodical oscillations. But with all that,
desiccation is evident, and it progresses at a formerly
unexpected speed. Even in the relatively wet parts of South-West
Siberia, the succession of reliable surveys, recently published
by Yadrintseff, shows that villages have grown up on what was,
eighty years ago, the bottom of one of the lakes of the Tchany
group; while the other lakes of the same group, which covered
hundreds of square miles some fifty years ago, are now mere
ponds. In short, the desiccation of North-West Asia goes on at a
rate which must be measured by centuries, instead of by the
geological units of time of which we formerly used to speak.
2 Whole civilizations had thus disappeared, as is proved now by
the remarkable discoveries in Mongolia on the Orkhon and in the
Lukchun depression (by Dmitri Clements).
3 If I follow the opinions of (to name modern specialists only)
Nasse, Kovalevsky, and Vinogradov, and not those of Mr. Seebohm
(Mr. Denman Ross can only be named for the sake of completeness),
it is not only because of the deep knowledge and concordance of
views of these three writers, but also on account of their
perfect knowledge of the village community altogether -- a
knowledge the want of which is much felt in the otherwise
remarkable work of Mr. Seebohm. The same remark applies, in a
still higher degree, to the most elegant writings of Fustel de
Coulanges, whose opinions and passionate interpretations of old
texts are confined to himself.
4 The literature of the village community is so vast that but a
few works can be named. Those of Sir Henry Maine, Mr. Seebohm,
and Walter's Das alte Wallis (Bonn, 1859), are well-known popular
sources of information about Scotland, Ireland, and Wales. For
France, P. Viollet, Pr?cis de l'histoire du droit fran?ais. Droit
priv?, 1886, and several of his monographs in Bibl. de l'Ecole
des Chartes; Babeau, Le Village sous l'ancien r?gime (the mir in
the eighteenth century), third edition, 1887; Bonnem?re, Doniol,
etc. For Italy and Scandinavia, the chief works are named in
Laveleye's Primitive Property, German version by K. B?cher. For
the Finns, Rein's F?rel?sningar, i. 16; Koskinen, Finnische
Geschichte, 1874, and various monographs. For the Lives and
Coures, Prof. Lutchitzky in Severnyi Vestnil, 1891. For the
Teutons, besides the well-known works of Maurer, Sohm
(Altdeutsche Reichs- und Gerichts- Verfassung), also Dahn
(Urzeit, V?lkerwanderung, Langobardische Studien), Janssen, Wilh.
Arnold, etc. For India, besides H. Maine and the works he names,
Sir John Phear's Aryan Village. For Russia and South Slavonians,
see Kavelin, Posnikoff, Sokolovsky, Kovalevsky, Efimenko,
Ivanisheff, Klaus, etc. (copious bibliographical index up to 1880
in the Sbornik svedeniy ob obschinye of the Russ. Geog. Soc.).
For general conclusions, besides Laveleye's Propri?t?, Morgan's
Ancient Society, Lippert's Kulturgeschichte, Post, Dargun, etc.,
also the lectures of M. Kovalevsky (Tableau des origines et de
l'?volution de la famille et de la propri?t?, Stockholm, 1890).
Many special monographs ought to be mentioned; their titles may
be found in the excellent lists given by P. Viollet in Droit
priv? and Droit public. For other races, see subsequent notes.
5 Several authorities are inclined to consider the joint
household as an intermediate stage between the clan and the
village community; and there is no doubt that in very many cases
village communities have grown up out of undivided families.
Nevertheless, I consider the joint household as a fact of a
different order. We find it within the gentes; on the other hand,
we cannot affirm that joint families have existed at any period
without belonging either to a gens or to a village community, or
to a Gau. I conceive the early village communities as slowly
originating directly from the gentes, and consisting, according
to racial and local circumstances, either of several joint
families, or of both joint and simple families, or (especially in
the case of new settlements) of simple families only. If this
view be correct, we should not have the right of establishing the
series: gens, compound family, village community -- the second
member of the series having not the same ethnological value as
the two others. See Appendix IX.
6 Stobbe, Beitr?g zur Geschichte des deutschen Rechtes, p. 62.
7 The few traces of private property in land which are met with
in the early barbarian period are found with such stems (the
Batavians, the Franks in Gaul) as have been for a time under the
influence of Imperial Rome. See Inama-Sternegg's Die Ausbildung
der grossen Grundherrschaften in Deutschland, Bd. i. 1878. Also,
Besseler, Neubruch nach dem ?lteren deutschen Recht, pp. 11-12,
quoted by Kovalevsky, Modern Custom and Ancient Law, Moscow,
1886, i. 134.
8 Maurer's Markgenossenschaft; Lamprecht's "Wirthschaft und
Recht der Franken zur Zeit der Volksrechte," in Histor.
Taschenbuch, 1883; Seebohm's The English Village Community, ch.
vi, vii, and ix.
9 Letourneau, in Bulletin de la Soc. d'Anthropologie, 1888, vol.
xi. p. 476.
10 Walter, Das alte Wallis, p. 323; Dm. Bakradze and N.
Khoudadoff in Russian Zapiski of the Caucasian Geogr. Society,
xiv. Part I.
11 Bancroft's Native Races; Waitz, Anthropologie, iii. 423;
Montrozier, in Bull. Soc. d'Anthropologie, 1870; Post's Studien,
12 A number of works, by Ory, Luro, Laudes, and Sylvestre, on
the village community in Annam, proving that it has had there the
same forms as in Germany or Russia, is mentioned in a review of
these works by Jobb?-Duval, in Nouvelle Revue historique de droit
fran?ais et ?tranger, October and December, 1896. A good study of
the village community of Peru, before the establishment of the
power of the Incas, has been brought out by Heinrich Cunow (Die
Soziale Verfassung des Inka-Reichs, Stuttgart, 1896. The communal
possession of land and communal culture are described in that
13 Kovalevsky, Modern Custom and Ancient Law, i. 115.
14 Palfrey, History of New England, ii. 13; quoted in Maine's
Village Communities, New York, 1876, p. 201.
15 K?nigswarter, Etudes sur le d?veloppement des soci?t?s
humaines, Paris, 1850.
16 This is, at least, the law of the Kalmucks, whose customary
law bears the closest resemblance to the laws of the Teutons, the
old Slavonians, etc.
17 The habit is in force still with many African and other
18 Village Communities, pp. 65-68 and 199.
19 Maurer (Gesch. der Markverfassung, sections 29, 97) is quite
decisive upon this subject. He maintains that "All members of the
community... the laic and clerical lords as well, often also the
partial co-possessors (Markberechtigte), and even strangers to
the Mark, were submitted to its jurisdiction" (p. 312). This
conception remained locally in force up to the fifteenth century.
20 K?nigswarter, loc. cit. p. 50; J. Thrupp, Historical Law
Tracts, London, 1843, p. 106.
21 K?nigswarter has shown that the fred originated from an
offering which had to be made to appease the ancestors. Later on,
it was paid to the community, for the breach of peace; and still
later to the judge, or king, or lord, when they had appropriated
to themselves the rights of the community.
22 Post's Bausteine and Afrikanische Jurisprudenz, Oldenburg,
1887, vol. i. pp. 64 seq.; Kovalevsky, loc. cit. ii. 164-189.
23 O. Miller and M. Kovalevsky, "In the Mountaineer Communities
of Kabardia," in Vestnik Evropy, April, 1884. With the
Shakhsevens of the Mugan Steppe, blood feuds always end by
marriage between the two hostile sides (Markoff, in appendix to
the Zapiski of the Caucasian Geogr. Soc. xiv. 1, 21).
24 Post, in Afrik. Jurisprudenz, gives a series of facts
illustrating the conceptions of equity inrooted among the African
barbarians. The same may be said of all serious examinations into
barbarian common law.
25 See the excellent chapter, "Le droit de La Vieille Irlande,"
(also "Le Haut Nord") in Etudes de droit international et de
droit politique, by Prof. E. Nys, Bruxelles, 1896.
26 Introduction, p. xxxv.
27 Das alte Wallis, pp. 343-350.
28 Maynoff, "Sketches of the Judicial Practices of the
Mordovians," in the ethnographical Zapiski of the Russian
Geographical Society, 1885, pp. 236, 257.
29 Henry Maine, International Law, London, 1888, pp. 11-13. E.
Nys, Les origines du droit international, Bruxelles, 1894.
30 A Russian historian, the Kazan Professor Schapoff, who was
exiled in 1862 to Siberia, has given a good description of their
institutions in the Izvestia of the East-Siberian Geographical
Society, vol. v. 1874.
31 Sir Henry Maine's Village Communities, New York, 1876, pp.
32 Nazaroff, The North Usuri Territory (Russian), St.
Petersburg, 1887, p. 65.
33 Hanoteau et Letourneux, La Kabylie, 3 vols. Paris, 1883.
34 To convoke an "aid" or "bee," some kind of meal must be
offered to the community. I am told by a Caucasian friend that in
Georgia, when the poor man wants an "aid," he borrows from the
rich man a sheep or two to prepare the meal, and the community
bring, in addition to their work, so many provisions that he may
repay tHe debt. A similar habit exists with the Mordovians.
35 Hanoteau et Letourneux, La kabylie, ii. 58. The same respect
to strangers is the rule with the Mongols. The Mongol who has
refused his roof to a stranger pays the full blood-compensation
if the stranger has suffered therefrom (Bastian, Der Mensch in
der Geschichte, iii. 231).
36 N. Khoudadoff, "Notes on the Khevsoures," in Zapiski of the
Caucasian Geogr. Society, xiv. 1, Tiflis, 1890, p. 68. They also
took the oath of not marrying girls from their own union, thus
displaying a remarkable return to the old gentile rules.
37 Dm. Bakradze, "Notes on the Zakataly District," in same
Zapiski, xiv. 1, p. 264. The "joint team" is as common among the
Lezghines as it is among the Ossetes.
38 See Post, Afrikanische Jurisprudenz, Oldenburg, 1887.
M?nzinger, Ueber das Recht und Sitten der Bogos, Winterthur"
1859; Casalis, Les Bassoutos, Paris, 1859; Maclean, Kafir Laws
and Customs, Mount Coke, 1858, etc.
39 Waitz, iii. 423 seq.
40 Post's Studien zur Entwicklungsgeschichte des Familien Rechts
Oldenburg, 1889, pp. 270 seq.
41 Powell, Annual Report of the Bureau of Ethnography,
Washington, 1881, quoted in Post's Studien, p. 290; Bastian's
Inselgruppen in Oceanien, 1883, p. 88.
42 De Stuers, quoted by Waitz, v. 141.


5. Mutual aid in the Mediaeval city

Submitted by libcom on January 31, 2006

Growth of authority in Barbarian Society. -- Serfdom in the
villages. -- Revolt of fortified towns: their liberation; their
charts. -- The guild. -- Double origin of the free medieval city.
-- Self-jurisdiction, self-administration. -- Honourable position
of labour. -- Trade by the guild and by the city.

Sociability and need of mutual aid and support are such

inherent parts of human nature that at no time of history can we

discover men living in small isolated families, fighting each

other for the means of subsistence. On the contrary, modern

research, as we saw it in the two preceding chapters, proves that

since the very beginning of their prehistoric life men used to

agglomerate into gentes, clans, or tribes, maintained by an idea

of common descent and by worship of common ancestors. For

thousands and thousands of years this organization has kept men

together, even though there was no authority whatever to impose

it. It has deeply impressed all subsequent development of

mankind; and when the bonds of common descent had been loosened

by migrations on a grand scale, while the development of the

separated family within the clan itself had destroyed the old

unity of the clan, a new form of union, territorial in its

principle -- the village community -- was called into existence

by the social genius of man. This institution, again, kept men

together for a number of centuries, permitting them to further

develop their social institutions and to pass through some of the

darkest periods of history, without being dissolved into loose

aggregations of families and individuals, to make a further step

in their evolution, and to work out a number of secondary social

institutions, several of which have survived down to the present

time. We have now to follow the further developments of the same

ever-living tendency for mutual aid. Taking the village

communities of the so-called barbarians at a time when they were

making a new start of civilization after the fall of the Roman

Empire, we have to study the new aspects taken by the sociable

wants of the masses in the middle ages, and especially in the

medieval guilds and the medieval city.

Far from being the fighting animals they have often been

compared to, the barbarians of the first centuries of our era

(like so many Mongolians, Africans, Arabs, and so on, who still

continue in the same barbarian stage) invariably preferred peace

to war. With the exception of a few tribes which had been driven

during the great migrations into unproductive deserts or

highlands, and were thus compelled periodically to prey upon

their better-favoured neighbours -- apart from these, the great

bulk of the Teutons, the Saxons, the Celts, the Slavonians, and

so on, very soon after they had settled in their newly-conquered

abodes, reverted to the spade or to their herds. The earliest

barbarian codes already represent to us societies composed of

peaceful agricultural communities, not hordes of men at war with

each other. These barbarians covered the country with villages

and farmhouses;1 they cleared the forests, bridged the

torrents, and colonized the formerly quite uninhabited

wilderness; and they left the uncertain warlike pursuits to

brotherhoods, scholae, or "trusts" of unruly men, gathered round

temporary chieftains, who wandered about, offering their

adventurous spirit, their arms, and their knowledge of warfare

for the protection of populations, only too anxious to be left in

peace. The warrior bands came and went, prosecuting their family

feuds; but the great mass continued to till the soil, taking but

little notice of their would-be rulers, so long as they did not

interfere with the independence of their village communities.2

The new occupiers of Europe evolved the systems of land tenure

and soil culture which are still in force with hundreds of

millions of men; they worked out their systems of compensation

for wrongs, instead of the old tribal blood-revenge; they learned

the first rudiments of industry; and while they fortified their

villages with palisaded walls, or erected towers and earthen

forts whereto to repair in case of a new invasion, they soon

abandoned the task of defending these towers and forts to those

who made of war a speciality.

The very peacefulness of the barbarians, certainly not their

supposed warlike instincts, thus became the source of their

subsequent subjection to the military chieftains. It is evident

that the very mode of life of the armed brotherhoods offered them

more facilities for enrichment than the tillers of the soil could

find in their agricultural communities. Even now we see that

armed men occasionally come together to shoot down Matabeles and

to rob them of their droves of cattle, though the Matabeles only

want peace and are ready to buy it at a high price. The scholae

of old certainly were not more scrupulous than the scholae of our

own time. Droves of cattle, iron (which was extremely costly at

that time3), and slaves were appropriated in this way; and

although most acquisitions were wasted on the spot in those

glorious feasts of which epic poetry has so much to say -- still

some part of the robbed riches was used for further enrichment.

There was plenty of waste land, and no lack of men ready to till

it, if only they could obtain the necessary cattle and

implements. Whole villages, ruined by murrains, pests, fires, or

raids of new immigrants, were often abandoned by their

inhabitants, who went anywhere in search of new abodes. They

still do so in Russia in similar circumstances. And if one of the

hirdmen of the armed brotherhoods offered the peasants some

cattle for a fresh start, some iron to make a plough, if not the

plough itself, his protection from further raids, and a number of

years free from all obligations, before they should begin to

repay the contracted debt, they settled upon the land. And when,

after a hard fight with bad crops, inundations and pestilences,

those pioneers began to repay their debts, they fell into servile

obligations towards the protector of the territory. Wealth

undoubtedly did accumulate in this way, and power always follows

wealth.4 And yet, the more we penetrate into the life of those

times, the sixth and seventh centuries of our era, the more we

see that another element, besides wealth and military force, was

required to constitute the authority of the few. It was an

element of law and tight, a desire of the masses to maintain

peace, and to establish what they considered to be justice, which

gave to the chieftains of the scholae -- kings, dukes, knyazes,

and the like -- the force they acquired two or three hundred

years later. That same idea of justice, conceived as an adequate

revenge for the wrong done, which had grown in the tribal stage,

now passed as a red thread through the history of subsequent

institutions, and, much more even than military or economic

causes, it became the basis upon which the authority of the kings

and the feudal lords was founded.

In fact, one of the chief preoccupations of the barbarian

village community always was, as it still is with our barbarian

contemporaries, to put a speedy end to the feuds which arose from

the then current conception of justice. When a quarrel took

place, the community at once interfered, and after the folkmote

had heard the case, it settled the amount of composition

(wergeld) to be paid to the wronged person, or to his family, as

well as the fred, or fine for breach of peace, which had to be

paid to the community. Interior quarrels were easily appeased in

this way. But when feuds broke out between two different tribes,

or two confederations of tribes, notwithstanding all measures

taken to prevent them,5 the difficulty was to find an arbiter

or sentence-finder whose decision should be accepted by both

parties alike, both for his impartiality and for his knowledge of

the oldest law. The difficulty was the greater as the customary

laws of different tribes and confederations were at variance as

to the compensation due in different cases. It therefore became

habitual to take the sentence-finder from among such families, or

such tribes, as were reputed for keeping the law of old in its

purity; of being versed in the songs, triads, sagas, etc., by

means of which law was perpetuated in memory; and to retain law

in this way became a sort of art, a "mystery," carefully

transmitted in certain families from generation to generation.

Thus in Iceland, and in other Scandinavian lands, at every

Allthing, or national folkmote, a l?vs?gmathr used to recite the

whole law from memory for the enlightening of the assembly; and

in Ireland there was, as is known, a special class of men reputed

for the knowledge of the old traditions, and therefore enjoying a

great authority as judges.6 Again, when we are told by the

Russian annals that some stems of North-West Russia, moved by the

growing disorder which resulted from "clans rising against

clans," appealed to Norman varingiar to be their judges and

commanders of warrior scholae; and when we see the knyazes, or

dukes, elected for the next two hundred years always from the

same Norman family, we cannot but recognize that the Slavonians

trusted to the Normans for a better knowledge of the law which

would be equally recognized as good by different Slavonian kins.

In this case the possession of runes, used for the transmission

of old customs, was a decided advantage in favour of the Normans;

but in other cases there are faint indications that the "eldest"

branch of the stem, the supposed motherbranch, was appealed to to

supply the judges, and its decisions were relied upon as

just;7 while at a later epoch we see a distinct tendency

towards taking the sentence-finders from the Christian clergy,

which, at that time, kept still to the fundamental, now

forgotten, principle of Christianity, that retaliation is no act

of justice. At that time the Christian clergy opened the churches

as places of asylum for those who fled from blood revenge, and

they willingly acted as arbiters in criminal cases, always

opposing the old tribal principle of life for life and wound for

wound. In short, the deeper we penetrate into the history of

early institutions, the less we find grounds for the military

theory of origin of authority. Even that power which later on

became such a source of oppression seems, on the contrary, to

have found its origin in the peaceful inclinations of the masses.

In all these cases the fred, which often amounted to half the

compensation, went to the folkmote, and from times immemorial it

used to be applied to works of common utility and defence. It has

still the same destination (the erection of towers) among the

Kabyles and certain Mongolian stems; and we have direct evidence

that even several centuries later the judicial fines, in Pskov

and several French and German cities, continued to be used for

the repair of the city walls.1 It was thus quite natural that

the fines should be handed over to the sentence-finder, who was

bound, in return, both to maintain the schola of armed men to

whom the defence of the territory was trusted, and to execute the

sentences. This became a universal custom in the eighth and ninth

centuries, even when the sentence-finder was an elected bishop.

The germ of a combination of what we should now call the judicial

power and the executive thus made its appearance. But to these

two functions the attributions of the duke or king were strictly

limited. He was no ruler of the people -- the supreme power still

belonging to the folkmote -- not even a commander of the popular

militia; when the folk took to arms, it marched under a separate,

also elected, commander, who was not a subordinate, but an equal

to the king.9 The king was a lord on his personal domain only.

In fact, in barbarian language, the word konung, koning, or

cyning synonymous with the Latin rex, had no other meaning than

that of a temporary leader or chieftain of a band of men. The

commander of a flotilla of boats, or even of a single pirate

boat, was also a konung, and till the present day the commander

of fishing in Norway is named Not-kong -- "the king of the

nets."10 The veneration attached later on to the personality

of a king did not yet exist, and while treason to the kin was

punished by death, the slaying of a king could be recouped by the

payment of compensation: a king simply was valued so much more

than a freeman.11 And when King Knu (or Canute) had killed one

man of his own schola, the saga represents him convoking his

comrades to a thing where he stood on his knees imploring pardon.

He was pardoned, but not till he had agreed to pay nine times the

regular composition, of which one-third went to himself for the

loss of one of his men, one-third to the relatives of the slain

man, and one-third (the fred) to the schola.12 In reality, a

complete change had to be accomplished in the current

conceptions, under the double influence of the Church and the

students of Roman law, before an idea of sanctity began to be

attached to the personality of the king.

However, it lies beyond the scope of these essays to follow

the gradual development of authority out of the elements just

indicated. Historians, such as Mr. and Mrs. Green for this

country, Augustin Thierry, Michelet, and Luchaire for France,

Kaufmann, Janssen, W. Arnold, and even Nitzsch, for Germany, Leo

and Botta for Italy, Byelaeff, Kostomaroff, and their followers

for Russia, and many others, have fully told that tale. They have

shown how populations, once free, and simply agreeing "to feed" a

certain portion of their military defenders, gradually became the

serfs of these protectors; how "commendation" to the Church, or

to a lord, became a hard necessity for the freeman; how each

lord's and bishop's castle became a robber's nest -- how

feudalism was imposed, in a word -- and how the crusades, by

freeing the serfs who wore the cross, gave the first impulse to

popular emancipation. All this need not be retold in this place,

our chief aim being to follow the constructive genius of the

masses in their mutual-aid institutions.

At a time when the last vestiges of barbarian freedom seemed

to disappear, and Europe, fallen under the dominion of thousands

of petty rulers, was marching towards the constitution of such

theocracies and despotic States as had followed the barbarian

stage during the previous starts of civilization, or of barbarian

monarchies, such as we see now in Africa, life in Europe took

another direction. It went on on lines similar to those it had

once taken in the cities of antique Greece. With a unanimity

which seems almost incomprehensible, and for a long time was not

understood by historians, the urban agglomerations, down to the

smallest burgs, began to shake off the yoke of their worldly and

clerical lords. The fortified village rose against the lord's

castle, defied it first, attacked it next, and finally destroyed

it. The movement spread from spot to spot, involving every town

on the surface of Europe, and in less than a hundred years free

cities had been called into existence on the coasts of the

Mediterranean, the North Sea, the Baltic, the Atlantic Ocean,

down to the fjords of Scandinavia; at the feet of the Apennines,

the Alps, the Black Forest, the Grampians, and the Carpathians;

in the plains of Russia, Hungary, France and Spain. Everywhere

the same revolt took place, with the same features, passing

through the same phases, leading to the same results. Wherever

men had found, or expected to find, some protection behind their

town walls, they instituted their "co-jurations," their

"fraternities," their "friendships," united in one common idea,

and boldly marching towards a new life of mutual support and

liberty. And they succeeded so well that in three or four hundred

years they had changed the very face of Europe. They had covered

the country with beautiful sumptuous buildings, expressing the

genius of free unions of free men, unrivalled since for their

beauty and expressiveness; and they bequeathed to the following

generations all the arts, all the industries, of which our

present civilization, with all its achievements and promises for

the future, is only a further development. And when we now look

to the forces which have produced these grand results, we find

them -- not in the genius of individual heroes, not in the mighty

organization of huge States or the political capacities of their

rulers, but in the very same current of mutual aid and support

which we saw at work in the village community, and which was

vivified and reinforced in the Middle Ages by a new form of

unions, inspired by the very same spirit but shaped on a new

model -- the guilds.

It is well known by this time that feudalism did not imply a

dissolution of the village community. Although the lord had

succeeded in imposing servile labour upon the peasants, and had

appropriated for himself such rights as were formerly vested in

the village community alone (taxes, mortmain, duties on

inheritances and marriages), the peasants had, nevertheless,

maintained the two fundamental rights of their communities: the

common possession of the land, and self-jurisdiction. In olden

times, when a king sent his vogt to a village, the peasants

received him with flowers in one hand and arms in the other, and

asked him -- which law he intended to apply: the one he found in

the village, or the one he brought with him? And, in the first

case, they handed him the flowers and accepted him; while in the

second case they fought him.13 Now, they accepted the king's

or the lord's official whom they could not refuse; but they

maintained the folkmote's jurisdiction, and themselves nominated

six, seven, or twelve judges, who acted with the lord's judge, in

the presence of the folkmote, as arbiters and sentence-finders.

In most cases the official had nothing left to him but to confirm

the sentence and to levy the customary fred. This precious right

of self-jurisdiction, which, at that time, meant

self-administration and self-legislation, had been maintained

through all the struggles; and even the lawyers by whom Karl the

Great was surrounded could not abolish it; they were bound to

confirm it. At the same time, in all matters concerning the

community's domain, the folkmote retained its supremacy and (as

shown by Maurer) often claimed submission from the lord himself

in land tenure matters. No growth of feudalism could break this

resistance; the village community kept its ground; and when, in

the ninth and tenth centuries, the invasions of the Normans, the

Arabs, and the Ugrians had demonstrated that military scholae

were of little value for protecting the land, a general movement

began all over Europe for fortifying the villages with stone

walls and citadels. Thousands of fortified centres were then

built by the energies of the village communities; and, once they

had built their walls, once a common interest had been created in

this new sanctuary -- the town walls -- they soon understood that

they could henceforward resist the encroachments of the inner

enemies, the lords, as well as the invasions of foreigners. A new

life of freedom began to develop within the fortified enclosures.

The medieval city was born.14

No period of history could better illustrate the constructive

powers of the popular masses than the tenth and eleventh

centuries, when the fortified villages and market-places,

representing so many "oases amidst the feudal forest," began to

free themselves from their lord's yoke, and slowly elaborated the

future city organization; but, unhappily, this is a period about

which historical information is especially scarce: we know the

results, but little has reached us about the means by which they

were achieved. Under the protection of their walls the cities'

folkmotes -- either quite independent, or led by the chief noble

or merchant families -- conquered and maintained the right of

electing the military defensor and supreme judge of the town, or

at least of choosing between those who pretended to occupy this

position. In Italy the young communes were continually sending

away their defensors or domini, fighting those who refused to go.

The same went on in the East. In Bohemia, rich and poor alike

(Bohemicae gentis magni et parvi, nobiles et ignobiles) took part

in the election;15 while, the vyeches (folkmotes) of the

Russian cities regularly elected their dukes -- always from the

same Rurik family -- covenanted with them, and sent the knyaz

away if he had provoked discontent.16 At the same time in most

cities of Western and Southern Europe, the tendency was to take

for defensor a bishop whom the city had elected itself. and so

many bishops took the lead in protecting the "immunities" of the

towns and in defending their liberties, that numbers of them were

considered, after their death, as saints and special patrons of

different cities. St. Uthelred of Winchester, St. Ulrik of

Augsburg, St. Wolfgang of Ratisbon, St. Heribert of Cologne, St.

Adalbert of Prague, and so on, as well as many abbots and monks,

became so many cities' saints for having acted in defence of

popular rights.17 And under the new defensors, whether laic or

clerical, the citizens conquered full self-jurisdiction and

self-administration for their folkmotes.18

The whole process of liberation progressed by a series of

imperceptible acts of devotion to the common cause, accomplished

by men who came out of the masses -- by unknown heroes whose very

names have not been preserved by history. The wonderful movement

of the God's peace (treuga Dei) by which the popular masses

endeavoured to put a limit to the endless family feuds of the

noble families, was born in the young towns, the bishops and the

citizens trying to extend to the nobles the peace they had

established within their town walls.19 Already at that period,

the commercial cities of Italy, and especially Amalfi (which had

its elected consuls since 844, and frequently changed its doges

in the tenth century)20 worked out the customary maritime and

commercial law which later on became a model for all Europe;

Ravenna elaborated its craft organization, and Milan, which had

made its first revolution in 980, became a great centre of

commerce, its trades enjoying a full independence since the

eleventh century.21 So also Br?gge and Ghent; so also several

cities of France in which the Mahl or forum had become a quite

independent institution.22 And already during that period

began the work of artistic decoration of the towns by works of

architecture, which we still admire and which loudly testify of

the intellectual movement of the times. "The basilicae were then

renewed in almost all the universe," Raoul Glaber wrote in his

chronicle, and some of the finest monuments of medieval

architecture date from that period: the wonderful old church of

Bremen was built in the ninth century, Saint Marc of Venice was

finished in 1071, and the beautiful dome of Pisa in 1063. In

fact, the intellectual movement which has been described as the

Twelfth Century Renaissance23 and the Twelfth Century

Rationalism -- the precursor of the Reform24 date from that

period, when most cities were still simple agglomerations of

small village communities enclosed by walls.

However, another element, besides the village-community

principle, was required to give to these growing centres of

liberty and enlightenment the unity of thought and action, and

the powers of initiative, which made their force in the twelfth

and thirteenth centuries. With the growing diversity of

occupations, crafts and arts, and with the growing commerce in

distant lands, some new form of union was required, and this

necessary new element was supplied by the guilds. Volumes and

volumes have been written about these unions which, under the

name of guilds, brotherhoods, friendships and druzhestva, minne,

artels in Russia, esnaifs in Servia and Turkey, amkari in

Georgia, and so on, took such a formidable development in

medieval times and played such an important part in the

emancipation of the cities. But it took historians more than

sixty years before the universality of this institution and its

true characters were understood. Only now, when hundreds of guild

statutes have been published and studied, and their relationship

to the Roman collegiae, and the earlier unions in Greece and in

India,25 is known, can we maintain with full confidence that

these brotherhoods were but a further development of the same

principles which we saw at work in the gens and the village


Nothing illustrates better these medieval brother hoods than

those temporary guilds which were formed on board ships. When a

ship of the Hansa had accomplished her first half-day passage

after having left the port, the captain (Schiffer) gathered all

crew and passengers on the deck, and held the following language,

as reported by a contemporary: --

"'As we are now at the mercy of God and the waves,' he said,

'each one must be equal to each other. And as we are surrounded

by storms, high waves, pirates and other dangers, we must keep a

strict order that we may bring our voyage to a good end. That is

why we shall pronounce the prayer for a good wind and good

success, and, according to marine law, we shall name the

occupiers of the judges' seats (Sch?ffenstellen).' Thereupon the

crew elected a Vogt and four scabini, to act as their judges. At

the end of the voyage the Vogt and the scabini. abdicated their

functions and addressed the. 'What has happened on board ship, we

crew as follows: -- must pardon to each other and consider as

dead (todt und ab sein lassen). What we have judged right, was

for the sake of justice. This is why we beg you all, in the name

of honest justice, to forget all the animosity one may nourish

against another, and to swear on bread and salt that he will not

think of it in a bad spirit. If any one, however, considers

himself wronged, he must appeal to the land Vogt and ask justice

from him before sunset.' On landing, the Stock with the fredfines

was handed over to the Vogt of the sea-port for distribution

among the poor."26

This simple narrative, perhaps better than anything else,

depicts the spirit of the medieval guilds. Like organizations

came into existence wherever a group of men -- fishermen,

hunters, travelling merchants, builders, or settled craftsmen --

came together for a common pursuit. Thus, there was on board ship

the naval authority of the captain; but, for the very success of

the common enterprise, all men on board, rich and poor, masters

and crew, captain and sailors, agreed to be equals in their

mutual relations, to be simply men, bound to aid each other and

to settle their possible disputes before judges elected by all of

them. So also when a number of craftsmen -- masons, carpenters,

stone-cutters, etc. -- came together for building, say, a

cathedral, they all belonged to a city which had its political

organization, and each of them belonged moreover to his own

craft; but they were united besides by their common enterprise,

which they knew better than any one else, and they joined into a

body united by closer, although temporary, bonds; they founded

the guild for the building of the cathedral.27 We may see the

same till now in the Kabylian. ?of:28 the Kabyles have their

village community; but this union is not sufficient for all

political, commercial, and personal needs of union, and the

closer brotherhood of the ?of is constituted.

As to the social characters of the medieval guild, any

guild-statute may illustrate them. Taking, for instance, the

skraa of some early Danish guild, we read in it, first, a

statement of the general brotherly feelings which must reign in

the guild; next come the regulations relative to

self-jurisdiction in cases of quarrels arising between two

brothers, or a brother and a stranger; and then, the social

duties of the brethren are enumerated. If a brother's house is

burned, or he has lost his ship, or has suffered on a pilgrim's

voyage, all the brethren must come to his aid. If a brother falls

dangerously ill, two brethren must keep watch by his bed till he

is out of danger, and if he dies, the brethren must bury him -- a

great affair in those times of pestilences -- and follow him to

the church and the grave. After his death they must provide for

his children, if necessary; very often the widow becomes a sister

to the guild.29

These two leading features appeared in every brotherhood

formed for any possible purpose. In each case the members treated

each other as, and named each other, brother and sister;30 all

were equals before the guild. They owned some "chattel" (cattle,

land, buildings, places of worship, or "stock") in common. All

brothers took the oath of abandoning all feuds of old; and,

without imposing upon each other the obligation of never

quarrelling again, they agreed that no quarrel should degenerate

into a feud, or into a law-suit before another court than the

tribunal of the brothers themselves. And if a brother was

involved in a quarrel with a stranger to the guild, they agreed

to support him for bad and for good; that is, whether he was

unjustly accused of aggression, or really was the aggressor, they

had to support him, and to bring things to a peaceful end. So

long as his was not a secret aggression -- in which case he would

have been treated as an outlaw -- the brotherhood stood by

him.31 If the relatives of the wronged man wanted to revenge

the offence at once by a new aggression, the brother- hood

supplied him with a horse to run away, or with a boat, a pair of

oars, a knife and a steel for striking light; if he remained in

town, twelve brothers accompanied him to protect him; and in the

meantime they arranged the composition. They went to court to

support by oath the truthfulness of his statements, and if he was

found guilty they did not let him go to full ruin and become a

slave through not paying the due compensation: they all paid it,

just as the gens did in olden times. Only when a brother had

broken the faith towards his guild-brethren, or other people, he

was excluded from the brotherhood "with a Nothing's name" (tha

scal han maeles af br?drescap met nidings nafn).32

Such were the leading ideas of those brotherhoods which

gradually covered the whole of medieval life. In fact, we know of

guilds among all possible professions: guilds of serfs,33

guilds of freemen, and guilds of both serfs and freemen; guilds

called into life for the special purpose of hunting, fishing, or

a trading expedition, and dissolved when the special purpose had

been achieved; and guilds lasting for centuries in a given craft

or trade. And, in proportion as life took an always greater

variety of pursuits, the variety in the guilds grew in

proportion. So we see not only merchants, craftsmen, hunters, and

peasants united in guilds; we also see guilds of priests,

painters, teachers of primary schools and universities, guilds

for performing the passion play, for building a church, for

developing the "mystery" of a given school of art or craft, or

for a special recreation -- even guilds among beggars,

executioners, and lost women, all organized on the same double

principle of self-jurisdiction and mutual support.34 For

Russia we have positive evidence showing that the very "making of

Russia" was as much the work of its hunters', fishermen's, and

traders' artels as of the budding village communities, and up to

the present day the country is covered with artels.35

These few remarks show how incorrect was the view taken by

some early explorers of the guilds when they wanted to see the

essence of the institution in its yearly festival. In reality,

the day of the common meal was always the day, or the morrow of

the day, of election of aldermen, of discussion of alterations in

the statutes, and very often the day of judgment of quarrels that

had risen among the brethren,36 or of renewed allegiance to

the guild. The common meal, like the festival at the old tribal

folkmote -- the mahl or malum -- or the Buryate aba, or the

parish feast and the harvest supper, was simply an affirmation of

brotherhood. It symbolized the times when everything was kept in

common by the clan. This day, at least, all belonged to all; all

sate at the same table and partook of the same meal. Even at a

much later time the inmate of the almshouse of a London guild sat

this day by the side of the rich alderman. As to the distinction

which several explorers have tried to establish between the old

Saxon "frith guild" and the so-called "social" or "religious"

guilds -- all were frith guilds in the sense above

mentioned,37 and all were religious in the sense in which a

village community or a city placed under the protection of a

special saint is social and religious. If the institution of the

guild has taken such an immense extension in Asia, Africa, and

Europe, if it has lived thousands of years, reappearing again and

again when similar conditions called it into existence, it is

because it was much more than an eating association, or an

association for going to church on a certain day, or a burial

club. It answered to a deeply inrooted want of human nature; and

it embodied all the attributes which the State appropriated later

on for its bureaucracy and police, and much more than that. It

was an association for mutual support in all circumstances and in

all accidents of life, "by deed and advise," and it was an

organization for maintaining justice -- with this difference from

the State, that on all these occasions a humane, a brotherly

element was introduced instead of the formal element which is the

essential characteristic of State interference. Even when

appearing before the guild tribunal, the guild-brother answered

before men who knew him well and had stood by him before in their

daily work, at the common meal, in the performance of their

brotherly duties: men who were his equals and brethren indeed,

not theorists of law nor defenders of some one else's


It is evident that an institution so well suited to serve the

need of union, without depriving the individual of his

initiative, could but spread, grow, and fortify. The difficulty

was only to find such form as would permit to federate the unions

of the guilds without interfering with the unions of the village

communities, and to federate all these into one harmonious whole.

And when this form of combination had been found, and a series of

favourable circumstances permitted the cities to affirm their

independence, they did so with a unity of thought which can but

excite our admiration, even in our century of railways,

telegraphs, and printing. Hundreds of charters in which the

cities inscribed their liberation have reached us, and through

all of them -- notwithstanding the infinite variety of details,

which depended upon the more or less greater fulness of

emancipation -- the same leading ideas run. The city organized

itself as a federation of both small village communities and


"All those who belong to the friendship of the town" -- so

runs a charter given in 1188 to the burghesses of Aire by Philip,

Count of Flanders -- "have promised and confirmed by faith and

oath that they will aid each other as brethren, in whatever is

useful and honest. That if one commits against another an offence

in words or in deeds, the one who has suffered there from will

not take revenge, either himself or his people... he will lodge a

complaint and the offender will make good for his offence,

according to what will be pronounced by twelve elected judges

acting as arbiters, And if the offender or the offended, after

having been warned thrice, does not submit to the decision of the

arbiters, he will be excluded from the friendship as a wicked man

and a perjuror.39

"Each one of the men of the commune will be faithful to his

con-juror, and will give him aid and advice, according to what

justice will dictate him" -- the Amiens and Abbeville charters

say. "All will aid each other, according to their powers, within

the boundaries of the Commune, and will not suffer that any one

takes anything from any one of them, or makes one pay

contributions" -- do we read in the charters of Soissons,

Compi?gne, Senlis, and many others of the same type.40 And so

on with countless variations on the same theme.

"The Commune," Guilbert de Nogent wrote, "is an oath of

mutual aid (mutui adjutorii conjuratio)... A new and detestable

word. Through it the serfs (capite sensi) are freed from all

serfdom; through it, they can only be condemned to a legally

determined fine for breaches of the law; through it, they cease

to be liable to payments which the serfs always used to


The same wave of emancipation ran, in the twelfth century,

through all parts of the continent, involving both rich cities

and the poorest towns. And if we may say that, as a rule, the

Italian cities were the first to free themselves, we can assign

no centre from which the movement would have spread. Very often a

small burg in central Europe took the lead for its region, and

big agglomerations accepted the little town's charter as a model

for their own. Thus, the charter of a small town, Lorris, was

adopted by eighty-three towns in south-west France, and that of

Beaumont became the model for over five hundred towns and cities

in Belgium and France. Special deputies were dispatched by the

cities to their neighbours to obtain a copy from their charter,

and the constitution was framed upon that model. However, they

did not simply copy each other: they framed their own charters in

accordance with the concessions they had obtained from their

lords; and the result was that, as remarked by an historian, the

charters of the medieval communes offer the same variety as the

Gothic architecture of their churches and cathedrals. The same

leading ideas in all of them -- the cathedral symbolizing the

union of parish and guild in the, city -- and the same infinitely

rich variety of detail.

Self-jurisdiction was the essential point, and

self-jurisdiction meant self-administration. But the commune was

not simply an "autonomous" part of the State -- such ambiguous

words had not yet been invented by that time -- it was a State in

itself. It had the right of war and peace, of federation and

alliance with its neighbours. It was sovereign in its own

affairs, and mixed with no others. The supreme political power

could be vested entirely in a democratic forum, as was the case

in Pskov, whose vyeche sent and received ambassadors, concluded

treaties, accepted and sent away princes, or went on without them

for dozens of years; or it was vested in, or usurped by, an

aristocracy of merchants or even nobles, as was the case in

hundreds of Italian and middle European cities. The principle,

nevertheless, remained the same: the city was a State and -- what

was perhaps still more remarkable -- when the power in the city

was usurped by an aristocracy of merchants or even nobles, the

inner life of the city and the democratism of its daily life did

not disappear: they depended but little upon what may be called

the political form of the State.

The secret of this seeming anomaly lies in the fact that a

medieval city was not a centralized State. During the first

centuries of its existence, the city hardly could be named a

State as regards its interior organization, because the middle

ages knew no more of the present centralization of functions than

of the present territorial centralization. Each group had its

share of sovereignty. The city was usually divided into four

quarters, or into five to seven sections radiating from a centre,

each quarter or section roughly corresponding to a certain trade

or profession which prevailed in it, but nevertheless containing

inhabitants of different social positions and occupations --

nobles, merchants, artisans, or even half-serfs; and each section

or quarter constituted a quite independent agglomeration. In

Venice, each island was an independent political community. It

had its own organized trades, its own commerce in salt, its own

jurisdiction and administration, its own forum; and the

nomination of a doge by the city changed nothing in the inner

independence of the units.42 In Cologne, we see the

inhabitants divided into Geburschaften and Heimschaften

(viciniae), i.e. neighbour guilds, which dated from the

Franconian period. Each of them had its judge (Burrichter) and

the usual twelve elected sentence-finders (Sch?ffen), its Vogt,

and its greve or commander of the local militia.43 The story

of early London before the Conquest -- Mr. Green says -- is that

"of a number of little groups scattered here and there over the

area within the walls, each growing up with its own life and

institutions, guilds, sokes, religious houses and the like, and

only slowly drawing together into a municipal union."44 And if

we refer to the annals of the Russian cities, Novgorod and Pskov,

both of which are relatively rich in local details, we find the

section (konets) consisting of independent streets (ulitsa), each

of which, though chiefly peopled with artisans of a certain

craft, had also merchants and landowners among its inhabitants,

and was a separate community. It had the communal responsibility

of all members in case of crime, its own jurisdiction and

administration by street aldermen (ulichanskiye starosty), its

own seal and, in case of need, its own forum; its own militia, as

also its self-elected priests and its, own collective life and

collective enterprise.45

The medieval city thus appears as a double federation: of all

householders united into small territorial unions -- the street,

the parish, the section -- and of individuals united by oath into

guilds according to their professions; the former being a produce

of the village-community origin of the city, while the second is

a subsequent growth called to life by new conditions.

To guarantee liberty, self-administration, and peace was the

chief aim of the medieval city. and labour, as we shall presently

see when speaking of the craft guilds, was its chief foundation.

But "production" did not absorb the whole attention of the

medieval economist. With his practical mind, he understood that

"consumption" must be guaranteed in order to obtain production;

and therefore, to provide for "the common first food and lodging

of poor and rich alike" (gemeine notdurft und gemach armer und

richer46) was the fundamental principle in each city. The

purchase of food supplies and other first necessaries (coal,

wood, etc.) before they had reached the market, or altogether in

especially favourable conditions from which others would be

excluded -- the preempcio, in a word -- was entirely prohibited.

Everything had to go to the market and be offered there for every

one's purchase, till the ringing of the bell had closed the

market. Then only could the retailer buy the remainder, and even

then his profit should be an "honest profit" only.47 Moreover,

when corn was bought by a baker wholesale after the close of the

market, every citizen had the right to claim part of the corn

(about half-a-quarter) for his own use, at wholesale price, if he

did so before the final conclusion of the bargain; and

reciprocally, every baker could claim the same if the citizen

purchased corn for re-selling it. In the first case, the corn had

only to be brought to the town mill to be ground in its proper

turn for a settled price, and the bread could be baked in the

four banal, or communal oven.48 In short, if a scarcity

visited the city, all had to suffer from it more or less; but

apart from the calamities, so long as the free cities existed no

one could die in their midst from starvation, as is unhappily too

often the case in our own times.

However, all such regulations belong to later periods of the

cities' life, while at an earlier period it was the city itself

which used to buy all food supplies for the use of the citizens.

The documents recently published by Mr. Gross are quite positive

on this point and fully support his conclusion to the effect that

the cargoes of subsistences "were purchased by certain civic

officials in the name of the town, and then distributed in shares

among the merchant burgesses, no one being allowed to buy wares

landed in the port unless the municipal authorities refused to

purchase them. This seem -- she adds -- to have been quite a

common practice in England, Ireland, Wales and Scotland."49

Even in the sixteenth century we find that common purchases of

corn were made for the "comoditie and profitt in all things of

this.... Citie and Chamber of London, and of all the Citizens and

Inhabitants of the same as moche as in us lieth" -- as the Mayor

wrote in 1565.50 In Venice, the whole of the trade in corn is

well known to have been in the hands of the city; the "quarters,"

on receiving the cereals from the board which administrated the

imports, being bound to send to every citizen's house the

quantity allotted to him.51 In France, the city of Amiens used

to purchase salt and to distribute it to all citizens at cost

price;52 and even now one sees in many French towns the halles

which formerly were municipal d?p?ts for corn and salt.53 In

Russia it was a regular custom in Novgorod and Pskov.

The whole matter relative to the communal purchases for the

use of the citizens, and the manner in which they used to be

made, seems not to have yet received proper attention from the

historians of the period; but there are here and there some very

interesting facts which throw a new light upon it. Thus there is,

among Mr. Gross's documents, a Kilkenny ordinance of the year

1367, from which we learn how the prices of the goods were

established. "The merchants and the sailors," Mr. Gross writes,

"were to state on oath the first cost of the goods and the

expenses of transportation. Then the mayor of the town and two

discreet men were to name the price at which the wares were to be

sold." The same rule held good in Thurso for merchandise coming

"by sea or land." This way of "naming the price" so well answers

to the very conceptions of trade which were current in medieval

times that it must have been all but universal. To have the price

established by a third person was a very old custom; and for all

interchange within the city it certainly was a widely-spread

habit to leave the establishment of prices to "discreet men" --

to a third party -- and not to the vendor or the buyer. But this

order of things takes us still further back in the history of

trade -- namely, to a time when trade in staple produce was

carried on by the whole city, and the merchants were only the

commissioners, the trustees, of the city for selling the goods

which it exported. A Waterford ordinance, published also by Mr.

Gross, says "that all manere of marchandis what so ever kynde

thei be of... shal be bought by the Maire and balives which bene

commene biers [common buyers, for the town] for the time being,

and to distribute the same on freemen of the citie (the propre

goods of free citisains and inhabitants only excepted)." This

ordinance can Hardly be explained otherwise than by admitting

that all the exterior trade of the town was carried on by its

agents. Moreover, we have direct evidence of such having been the

case for Novgorod and Pskov. It was the Sovereign Novgorod and

the Sovereign Pskov who sent their caravans of merchants to

distant lands.

We know also that in nearly all medieval cities of Middle and

Western Europe, the craft guilds used to buy, as a body, all

necessary raw produce, and to sell the produce of their work

through their officials, and it is hardly possible that the same

should not have been done for exterior trade -- the more so as it

is well known that up to the thirteenth century, not only all

merchants of a given city were considered abroad as responsible

in a body for debts contracted by any one of them, but the whole

city as well was responsible for the debts of each one of its

merchants. Only in the twelfth and thirteenth century the towns

on the Rhine entered into special treaties abolishing this

responsibility.54 And finally we have the remarkable Ipswich

document published by Mr. Gross, from which document we learn

that the merchant guild of this town was constituted by all who

had the freedom of the city, and who wished to pay their

contribution ("their hanse") to the guild, the whole community

discussing all together how better to maintain the merchant

guild, and giving it certain privileges. The merchant guild of

Ipswich thus appears rather as a body of trustees of the town

than as a common private guild.

In short, the more we begin to know the mediaeval city the

more we see that it was not simply a political organization for

the protection of certain political liberties. It was an attempt

at organizing, on a much grander scale than in a village

community, a close union for mutual aid and support, for

consumption and production, and for social life altogether,

without imposing upon men the fetters of the State, but giving

full liberty of expression to the creative genius of each

separate group of individuals in art, crafts, science, commerce,

and political organization. How far this attempt has been

successful will be best seen when we have analyzed in the next

chapter the organization of labour in the medieval city and the

relations of the cities with the surrounding peasant population.

1 W. Arnold, in his Wanderungen und Ansiedelungen der deutschen
St?mme, p. 431, even maintains that one-half of the now arable
area in middle Germany must have been reclaimed from the sixth to
the ninth century. Nitzsch (Geschichte des deutschen Volkes,
Leipzig, 1883, vol. i.) shares the same opinion.
2 Leo and Botta, Histoire d'Italie, French edition, 1844, t. i.,
p. 37.
3 The composition for the stealing of a simple knife was 15
solidii and of the iron parts of a mill, 45 solidii (See on this
subject Lamprecht's Wirthschaft und Recht der Franken in Raumer's
Historisches Taschenbuch, 1883, p. 52.) According to the Riparian
law, the sword, the spear, and the iron armour of a warrior
attained the value of at least twenty-five cows, or two years of
a freeman's labour. A cuirass alone was valued in the Salic law
(Desmichels, quoted by Michelet) at as much as thirty-six bushels
of wheat.
4 The chief wealth of the chieftains, for a long time, was in
their personal domains peopled partly with prisoner slaves, but
chiefly in the above way. On the origin of property see Inama
Sternegg's Die Ausbildung der grossen Grundherrschaften in
Deutschland, in Schmoller's Forschungen, Bd. I., 1878; F. Dahn's
Urgeschichte der germanischen und romanischen V?lker, Berlin,
1881; Maurer's Dorfverfassung; Guizot's Essais sur l'histoire de
France; Maine's Village Community; Botta's Histoire d'Italie;
Seebohm, Vinogradov, J. R. Green, etc.
5 See Sir Henry Maine's International Law, London, 1888.
6 Ancient Laws of Ireland, Introduction; E. Nys, Etudes de droit
international, t. i., 1896, pp. 86 seq. Among the Ossetes the
arbiters from three oldest villages enjoy a special reputation
(M. Kovalevsky's Modern Custom and Old Law, Moscow, 1886, ii.
217, Russian).
7 It is permissible to think that this conception (related to
the conception of tanistry) played an important part in the life
of the period; but research has not yet been directed that way.
8 It was distinctly stated in the charter of St. Quentin of the
year 1002 that the ransom for houses which had to be demolished
for crimes went for the city walls. The same destination was
given to the Ungeld in German cities. At Pskov the cathedral was
the bank for the fines, and from this fund money was taken for
the wails.
9 Sohm, Fr?nkische Rechts- und Gerichtsverfassung, p. 23; also
Nitzsch, Geschechte des deutschen Volkes, i. 78.
10 See the excellent remarks on this subject in Augustin
Thierry's Lettres sur l'histoire de France. 7th Letter. The
barbarian translations of parts of the Bible are extremely
instructive on this point.
11 Thirty-six times more than a noble, according to the
Anglo-Saxon law. In the code of Rothari the slaying of a king is,
however, punished by death; but (apart from Roman influence) this
new disposition was introduced (in 646) in the Lombardian law --
as remarked by Leo and Botta -- to cover the king from blood
revenge. The king being at that time the executioner of his own
sentences (as the tribe formerly was of its own sentences), he
had to be protected by a special disposition, the more so as
several Lombardian kings before Rothari had been slain in
succession (Leo and Botta, l.c., i. 66-90).
12 Kaufmann, Deutsche Geschichte, Bd. I. "Die Germanen der
Urzeit," p. 133.
13 Dr. F. Dahn, Urgeschichte der germanischen und romanischen
V?lker, Berlin, 1881, Bd. I. 96.
14 If I thus follow the views long since advocated by Maurer
(Geschichte der St?dteverfassung in Deutschland, Erlangen, 1869),
it is because he has fully proved the uninterrupted evolution
from the village community to the mediaeval city, and that his
views alone can explain the universality of the communal
movement. Savigny and Eichhorn and their followers have certainly
proved that the traditions of the Roman municipia had never
totally disappeared. But they took no account of the village
community period which the barbarians lived through before they
had any cities. The fact is, that whenever mankind made a new
start in civilization, in Greece, Rome, or middle Europe, it
passed through the same stages -- the tribe, the village
community, the free city, the state -- each one naturally
evolving out of the preceding stage. Of course, the experience of
each preceding civilization was never lost. Greece (itself
influenced by Eastern civilizations) influenced Rome, and Rome
influenced our civilization; but each of them begin from the same
beginning -- the tribe. And just as we cannot say that our states
are continuations of the Roman state, so also can we not say that
the mediaeval cities of Europe (including Scandinavia and Russia)
were a continuation of the Roman cities. They were a continuation
of the barbarian village community, influenced to a certain
extent by the traditions of the Roman towns.
15 M. Kovalevsky, Modern Customs and Ancient Laws of Russia
(Ilchester Lectures, London, 1891, Lecture 4).
16 A considerable amount of research had to be done before this
character of the so-called udyelnyi period was properly
established by the works of Byelaeff (Tales from Russian
History), Kostomaroff (The Beginnings of Autocracy in Russia),
and especially Professor Sergievich (The Vyeche and the Prince).
The English reader may find some information about this period in
the just-named work of M. Kovalevsky, in Rambaud's History of
Russia, and, in a short summary, in the article "Russia" of the
last edition of Chambers's Encyclopaedia.
17 Ferrari, Histoire des r?volutions d'Italie, i. 257; Kallsen,
Die deutschen St?dte im Mittelalter, Bd. I. (Halle, 1891).
18 See the excellent remarks of Mr. G.L. Gomme as regards the
folkmote of London (The Literature of Local Institutions, London,
1886, p. 76). It must, however, be remarked that in royal cities
the folkmote never attained the independence which it assumed
elsewhere. It is even certain that Moscow and Paris were chosen
by the kings and the Church as the cradles of the future royal
authority in the State, because they did not possess the
tradition of folkmotes accustomed to act as sovereign in all
19 A. Luchaire, Les Communes fran?aises; also Kluckohn,
Geschichte des Gottesfrieden, 1857. L. S?michon (La paix et la
tr?ve de Dieu, 2 vols., Paris, 1869) has tried to represent the
communal movement as issued from that institution. In reality,
the treuga Dei, like the league started under Louis le Gros for
the defence against both the robberies of the nobles and the
Norman invasions, was a thoroughly popular movement. The only
historian who mentions this last league -- that is, Vitalis --
describes it as a "popular community" ("Consid?rations sur
l'histoire de France," in vol. iv. of Aug. Thierry's OEuvres,
Paris, 1868, p. 191 and note).
20 Ferrari, i. 152, 263, etc.
21 Perrens, Histoire de Florence, i. 188; Ferrari, l.c., i. 283.
22 Aug. Thierry, Essai sur l'histoire du Tiers Etat, Paris,
1875, p. 414, note.
23 F. Rocquain, "La Renaissance au XIIe si?cle," in Etudes sur
l'histoire de France, Paris, 1875, pp. 55-117.
24 N. Kostomaroff, "The Rationalists of the Twelfth Century," in
his Monographies and Researches (Russian).
25 Very interesting facts relative to the universality of guilds
will be found in "Two Thousand Years of Guild Life," by Rev. J.
M. Lambert, Hull, 1891. On the Georgian amkari, see S.
Eghiazarov, Gorodskiye Tsekhi ("Organization of Transcaucasian
Amkari"), in Memoirs of the Caucasian Geographical Society, xiv.
2, 1891.
26 J.D. Wunderer's "Reisebericht" in Fichard's Frankfurter
Archiv, ii. 245; quoted by Janssen, Geschichte des deutschen
Volkes, i. 355.
27 Dr. Leonard Ennen, Der Dom zu K?ln, Historische Einleitung,
K?ln, 1871, pp. 46, 50.
28 See previous chapter.
29 Kofod Ancher, Om gamle Danske Gilder og deres Undergang,
Copenhagen, 1785. Statutes of a Knu guild.
30 Upon the position of women in guilds, see Miss Toulmin
Smith's introductory remarks to the English Guilds of her father.
One of the Cambridge statutes (p. 281) of the year 1503 is quite
positive in the following sentence: "Thys statute is made by the
comyne assent of all the bretherne and sisterne of alhallowe
31 In medieval times, only secret aggression was treated as a
murder. Blood-revenge in broad daylight was justice; and slaying
in a quarrel was not murder, once the aggressor showed his
willingness to repent and to repair the wrong he had done. Deep
traces of this distinction still exist in modern criminal law,
especially in Russia.
32 Kofod Ancher, l.c. This old booklet contains much that has
been lost sight of by later explorers.
33 They played an important part in the revolts of the serfs,
and were therefore prohibited several times in succession in the
second half of the ninth century. Of course, the king's
prohibitions remained a dead letter.
34 The medieval Italian painters were also organized in guilds,
which became at a later epoch Academies of art. If the Italian
art of those times is impressed with so much individuality that
we distinguish, even now, between the different schools of Padua,
Bassano, Treviso, Verona, and so on, although all these cities
were under the sway of Venice, this was due -- J. Paul Richter
remarks -- to the fact that the painters of each city belonged to
a separate guild, friendly with the guilds of other towns, but
leading a separate existence. The oldest guild-statute known is
that of Verona, dating from 1303, but evidently copied from some
much older statute. "Fraternal assistance in necessity of
whatever kind," "hospitality towards strangers, when passing
through the town, as thus information may be obtained about
matters which one may like to learn," and "obligation of offering
comfort in case of debility" are among the obligations of the
members (Nineteenth Century, Nov. 1890, and Aug. 1892).
35 The chief works on the artels are named in the article
"Russia" of the Encyclopaedia Britannica, 9th edition, p. 84.
36 See, for instance, the texts of the Cambridge guilds given by
Toulmin Smith (English Guilds, London, 1870, pp. 274-276), from
which it appears that the "generall and principall day" was the
"eleccioun day;" or, Ch. M. Clode's The Early History of the
Guild of the Merchant Taylors, London, 1888, i. 45; and so on.
For the renewal of allegiance, see the J?msviking saga, mentioned
in Pappenheim's Altd?nische Schutzgilden, Breslau, 1885, p. 67.
It appears very probable that when the guilds began to be
prosecuted, many of them inscribed in their statutes the meal day
only, or their pious duties, and only alluded to the judicial
function of the guild in vague words; but this function did not
disappear till a very much later time. The question, "Who will be
my judge?" has no meaning now, since the State has appropriated
for its bureaucracy the organization of justice; but it was of
primordial importance in medieval times, the more so as
self-jurisdiction meant self-administration. It must also be
remarked that the translation of the Saxon and Danish
"guild-bretheren," or "brodre," by the Latin convivii must also
have contributed to the above confusion.
37 See the excellent remarks upon the frith guild by J.R. Green
and Mrs. Green in The Conquest of England, London, 1883, pp.
38 See Appendix X.
39 Recueil des ordonnances des rois de France, t. xii. 562;
quoted by Aug. Thierry in Consid?rations sur l'histoire de
France, p. 196, ed. 12mo.
40 A. Luchaire, Les Communes fran?aises, pp, 45-46.
41 Guilbert de Nogent, De vita sua, quoted by Luchaire, l.c., p.
42 Lebret, Histoire de Venise, i. 393; also Marin, quoted by Leo
and Botta in Histoire de l'Italie, French edition, 1844, t. i
43 Dr. W. Arnold, Verfassungsgeschichte der deutschen
Freist?dte, 1854, Bd. ii. 227 seq.; Ennen, Geschichte der Stadt
Koeln, Bd. i. 228-229; also the documents published by Ennen and
44 Conquest of England, 1883, p. 453.
45 Byelaeff, Russian History, vols. ii. and iii.
46 W. Gramich, Verfassungs- und Verwaltungsgeschichte der Stadt
W?rzburg im 13. bis zum 15. Jahrhundert, W?rzburg, 1882, p. 34.
47 When a boat brought a cargo of coal to W?rzburg, coal could
only be sold in retail during the first eight days, each family
being entitled to no more than fifty basketfuls. The remaining
cargo could be sold wholesale, but the retailer was allowed to
raise a zittlicher profit only, the unzittlicher, or dishonest
profit, being strictly forbidden (Gramich, l.c.). Same in London
(Liber albus, quoted by Ochenkowski, p. 161), and, in fact,
48 See Fagniez, Etudes sur l'industrie et la classe industrielle
? Paris au XIIIme et XIVme si?cle, Paris, 1877, pp. 155 seq. It
hardly need be added that the tax on bread, and on beer as well,
was settled after careful experiments as to the quantity of bread
and beer which could be obtained from a given amount of corn. The
Amiens archives contain the minutes of such experiences (A. de
Calonne, l.c. pp. 77, 93). Also those of London (Ochenkowski,
England's wirthschaftliche Entwickelung, etc., Jena, 1879, p.
49 Ch. Gross, The Guild Merchant, Oxford, 1890, i. 135. His
documents prove that this practice existed in Liverpool (ii.
148-150), Waterford in Ireland, Neath in Wales, and Linlithgow
and Thurso in Scotland. Mr. Gross's texts also show that the
purchases were made for distribution, not only among the merchant
burgesses, but "upon all citsains and commynalte" (p. 136, note),
or, as the Thurso ordinance of the seventeenth century runs, to
"make offer to the merchants, craftsmen, and inhabitants of the
said burgh, that they may have their proportion of the same,
according to their necessitys and ability."
50 The Early History of the Guild of Merchant Taylors, by
Charles M. Clode, London, 1888, i. 361, appendix 10; also the
following appendix which shows that the same purchases were made
in 1546.
51 Cibrario, Les conditions ?conomiques de l'Italie au temps de
Dante, Paris, 1865, p. 44.
52 A. de Calonne, La vie municipale au XVme si?cle dans le Nord
de la France, Paris, 1880, pp. 12-16. In 1485 the city permitted
the export to Antwerp of a certain quantity of corn, "the
inhabitants of Antwerp being always ready to be agreeable to the
merchants and burgesses of Amiens" (ibid., pp. 75-77 and texts).
53 A. Babeau, La ville sous l'ancien r?gime, Paris, 1880.
54 Ennen, Geschichte der Stadt K?ln, i. 491, 492, also texts.


6. Mutual aid in the Mediaeval city (cont.)

Submitted by libcom on January 31, 2006

Likeness and diversity among the medieval cities. -- The
craftguilds: State-attributes in each of them. -- Attitude of the
city towards the peasants; attempts to free them. -- The lords.
-- Results achieved by the medieval city: in arts, in learning.
-- Causes of decay.

The medieval cities were not organized upon some preconceived

plan in obedience to the will of an outside legislator. Each of

them was a natural growth in the full sense of the word -- an

always varying result of struggle between various forces which

adjusted and re-adjusted themselves in conformity with their

relative energies, the chances of their conflicts, and the

support they found in their surroundings. Therefore, there are

not two cities whose inner organization and destinies would have

been identical. Each one, taken separately, varies from century

to century. And yet, when we cast a broad glance upon all the

cities of Europe, the local and national unlikenesses disappear,

and we are struck to find among all of them a wonderful

resemblance, although each has developed for itself,

independently from the others, and in different conditions. A

small town in the north of Scotland, with its population of

coarse labourers and fishermen; a rich city of Flanders, with its

world-wide commerce, luxury, love of amusement and animated life;

an Italian city enriched by its intercourse with the East, and

breeding within its walls a refined artistic taste and

civilization; and a poor, chiefly agricultural, city in the marsh

and lake district of Russia, seem to have little in common. And

nevertheless, the leading lines of their organization, and the

spirit which animates them, are imbued with a strong family

likeness. Everywhere we see the same federations of small

communities and guilds, the same "sub-towns" round the mother

city, the same folkmote, and the same insigns of its

independence. The defensor of the city, under different names and

in different accoutrements, represents the same authority and

interests; food supplies, labour and commerce, are organized on

closely similar lines; inner and outer struggles are fought with

like ambitions; nay, the very formulae used in the struggles, as

also in the annals, the ordinances, and the rolls, are identical;

and the architectural monuments, whether Gothic, Roman, or

Byzantine in style, express the same aspirations and the same

ideals; they are conceived and built in the same way. Many

dissemblances are mere differences of age, and those disparities

between sister cities which are real are repeated in different

parts of Europe. The unity of the leading idea and the identity

of origin make up for differences of climate, geographical

situation, wealth, language and religion. This is why we can

speak of the medieval city as of a well-defined phase of

civilization; and while every research insisting upon local and

individual differences is most welcome, we may still indicate the

chief lines of development which are common to all cities.1

There is no doubt that the protection which used to be

accorded to the market-place from the earliest barbarian times

has played an important, though not an exclusive, part in the

emancipation of the medieval city. The early barbarians knew no

trade within their village communities; they traded with

strangers only, at certain definite spots, on certain determined

days. And, in order that the stranger might come to the

barter-place without risk of being slain for some feud which

might be running between two kins, the market was always placed

under the special protection of all kins. It was inviolable, like

the place of worship under the shadow of which it was held. With

the Kabyles it is still annaya, like the footpath along which

women carry water from the well; neither must be trodden upon in

arms, even during inter-tribal wars. In medieval times the market

universally enjoyed the same protection.2 No feud could be

prosecuted on the place whereto people came to trade, nor within

a certain radius from it; and if a quarrel arose in the motley

crowd of buyers and sellers, it had to be brought before those

under whose protection the market stood -- the community's

tribunal, or the bishop's, the lord's, or the king's judge. A

stranger who came to trade was a guest, and he went on under this

very name. Even the lord who had no scruples about robbing a

merchant on the high road, respected the Weichbild, that is, the

pole which stood in the market-place and bore either the king's

arms, or a glove, or the image of the local saint, or simply a

cross, according to whether the market was under the protection

of the king, the lord, the local church, or the folkmote -- the


It is easy to understand how the self-jurisdiction of the

city could develop out of the special jurisdiction in the

market-place, when this last right was conceded, willingly or

not, to the city itself. And such an origin of the city's

liberties, which can be traced in very many cases, necessarily

laid a special stamp upon their subsequent development. It gave a

predominance to the trading part of the community. The burghers

who possessed a house in the city at the time being, and were

co-owners in the town-lands, constituted very often a merchant

guild which held in its hands the city's trade; and although at

the outset every burgher, rich and poor, could make part of the

merchant guild, and the trade itself seems to have been carried

on for the entire city by its trustees, the guild gradually

became a sort of privileged body. It jealously prevented the

outsiders who soon began to flock into the free cities from

entering the guild, and kept the advantages resulting from trade

for the few "families" which had been burghers at the time of the

emancipation. There evidently was a danger of a merchant

oligarchy being thus constituted. But already in the tenth, and

still more during the two next centuries, the chief crafts, also

organized in guilds, were powerful enough to check the oligarchic

tendencies of the merchants.

The craft guild was then a common seller of its produce and a

common buyer of the raw materials, and its members were merchants

and manual workers at the same time. Therefore, the predominance

taken by the old craft guilds from the very beginnings of the

free city life guaranteed to manual labour the high position

which it afterwards occupied in the city.4 In fact, in a

medieval city manual labour was no token of inferiority; it bore,

on the contrary, traces of the high respect it had been kept in

in the village community. Manual labour in a "mystery" was

considered as a pious duty towards the citizens: a public

function (Amt), as honourable as any other. An idea of "justice"

to the community, of "right" towards both producer and consumer,

which would seem so extravagant now, penetrated production and

exchange. The tanner's, the cooper's, or the shoemaker's work

must be "just," fair, they wrote in those times. Wood, leather or

thread which are used by the artisan must be "right"; bread must

be baked "in justice," and so on. Transport this language into

our present life, and it would seem affected and unnatural; but

it was natural and unaffected then, because the medieval artisan

did not produce for an unknown buyer, or to throw his goods into

an unknown market. He produced for his guild first; for a

brotherhood of men who knew each other, knew the technics of the

craft, and, in naming the price of each product, could appreciate

the skill displayed in its fabrication or the labour bestowed

upon it. Then the guild, not the separate producer, offered the

goods for sale in the community, and this last, in its turn,

offered to the brotherhood of allied communities those goods

which were exported, and assumed responsibility for their

quality. With such an organization, it was the ambition of each

craft not to offer goods of inferior quality, and technical

defects or adulterations became a matter concerning the whole

community, because, an ordinance says, "they would destroy public

confidence."5 Production being thus a social duty, placed

under the control of the whole amitas, manual labour could not

fall into the degraded condition which it occupies now, so long

as the free city was living.

A difference between master and apprentice, or between master

and worker (compayne, Geselle), existed but in the medieval

cities from their very beginnings; this was at the outset a mere

difference of age and skill, not of wealth and power. After a

seven years' apprenticeship, and after having proved his

knowledge and capacities by a work of art, the apprentice became

a master himself. And only much later, in the sixteenth century,

after the royal power had destroy ed the city and the craft

organization, was it possible to become master in virtue of

simple inheritance or wealth. But this was also the time of a

general decay in medieval industries and art.

There was not much room for hired work in the early

flourishing periods of the medieval cities, still less for

individual hirelings. The work of the weavers, the archers, the

smiths, the bakers, and so on, was performed for the craft and

the city; and when craftsmen were hired in the building trades,

they worked as temporary corporations (as they still do in the

Russian art?ls), whose work was paid en bloc. Work for a master

began to multiply only later on; but even in this case the worker

was paid better than he is paid now, even in this country, and

very much better than he used to be paid all over Europe in the

first half of this century. Thorold Rogers has familiarized

English readers with this idea; but the same is true for the

Continent as well, as is shown by the researches of Falke and

Sch?nberg, and by many occasional indications. Even in the

fifteenth century a mason, a carpenter, or a smith worker would

be paid at Amiens four sols a day, which corresponded to

forty-eight pounds of bread, or to the eighth part of a small ox

(bouvard). In Saxony, the salary of the Geselle in the building

trade was such that, to put it in Falke's words, he could buy

with his six days' wages three sheep and one pair of shoes.6

The donations of workers (Geselle) to cathedrals also bear

testimony of their relative well-being, to say nothing of the

glorious donations of certain craft guilds nor of what they used

to spend in festivities and pageants.7 In fact, the more we

learn about the medieval city, the more we are convinced that at

no time has labour enjoyed such conditions of prosperity and such

respect as when city life stood at its highest.

More than that; not only many aspirations of our modern

radicals were already realized in the middle ages, but much of

what is described now as Utopian was accepted then as a matter of

fact. We are laughed at when we say that work must be pleasant,

but -- "every one must be pleased with his work," a medieval

Kuttenberg ordinance says, "and no one shall, while doing nothing

(mit nichts thun), appropriate for himself what others have

produced by application and work, because laws must be a shield

for application and work."8 And amidst all present talk about

an eight hours' day, it may be well to remember an ordinance of

Ferdinand the First relative to the Imperial coal mines, which

settled the miner's day at eight hours, "as it used to be of old"

(wie vor Alters herkommen), and work on Saturday afternoon was

prohibited. Longer hours were very rare, we are told by Janssen,

while shorter hours were of common occurrence. In this country,

in the fifteenth century, Rogers says, "the workmen worked only

forty-eight hours a week."9 The Saturday half-holiday, too,

which we consider as a modern conquest, was in reality an old

medieval institution; it was bathing-time for a great part of the

community, while Wednesday afternoon was bathing-time for the

Geselle.10 And although school meals did not exist -- probably

because no children went hungry to school -- a distribution of

bath-money to the children whose parents found difficulty in

providing it was habitual in several places As to Labour

Congresses, they also were a regular Feature of the middles ages.

In some parts of Germany craftsmen of the same trade, belonging

to different communes, used to come together every year to

discuss questions relative to their trade, the years of

apprenticeship, the wandering years, the wages, and so on; and in

1572, the Hanseatic towns formally recognized the right of the

crafts to come together at periodical congresses, and to take any

resolutions, so long as they were not contrary to the cities'

rolls, relative to the quality of goods. Such Labour Congresses,

partly international like the Hansa itself, are known to have

been held by bakers, founders, smiths, tanners, sword-makers and


The craft organization required, of course, a close

supervision of the craftsmen by the guild, and special jurates

were always nominated for that purpose. But it is most remarkable

that, so long as the cities lived their free life, no complaints

were heard about the supervision; while, after the State had

stepped in, confiscating the property of the guilds and

destroying their independence in favour of its own bureaucracy,

the complaints became simply countless.12 On the other hand,

the immensity of progress realized in all arts under the

mediaeval guild system is the best proof that the system was no

hindrance to individual initiative.13 The fact is, that the

medieval guild, like the medieval parish, "street," or "quarter,"

was not a body of citizens, placed under the control of State

functionaries; it was a union of all men connected with a given

trade: jurate buyers of raw produce, sellers of manufactured

goods, and artisans -- masters, "compaynes," and apprentices. For

the inner organization of the trade its assembly was sovereign,

so long as it did not hamper the other guilds, in which case the

matter was brought before the guild of the guilds -- the city.

But there was in it something more than that. It had its own

self-jurisdiction, its own military force, its own general

assemblies, its own traditions of struggles, glory, and

independence, its own relations with other guilds of the same

trade in other cities: it had, in a word, a full organic life

which could only result from the integrality of the vital

functions. When the town was called to arms, the guild appeared

as a separate company (Schaar), armed with its own arms (or its

own guns, lovingly decorated by the guild, at a subsequent

epoch), under its own self-elected commanders. It was, in a word,

as independent a unit of the federation as the republic of Uri or

Geneva was fifty years ago in the Swiss Confederation. So that,

to compare it with a modern trade union, divested of all

attributes of State sovereignty, and reduced to a couple of

functions of secondary importance, is as unreasonable as to

compare Florence or Br?gge with a French commune vegetating under

the Code Napol?on, or with a Russian town placed under Catherine

the Second's municipal law. Both have elected mayors, and the

latter has also its craft corporations; but the difference is --

all the difference that exists between Florence and

Fontenay-les-Oies or Tsarevokokshaisk, or between a Venetian doge

and a modern mayor who lifts his hat before the sous-pr?fet's


The medieval guilds were capable of maintaining their

independence; and, later on, especially in the fourteenth

century, when, in consequence of several causes which shall

presently be indicated, the old municipal life underwent a deep

modification, the younger crafts proved strong enough to conquer

their due share in the management of the city affairs. The

masses, organized in "minor" arts, rose to wrest the power out of

the hands of a growing oligarchy, and mostly succeeded in this

task, opening again a new era of prosperity. True, that in some

cities the uprising was crushed in blood, and mass decapitations

of workers followed, as was the case in Paris in 1306, and in

Cologne in 1371. In such cases the city's liberties rapidly fell

into decay, and the city was gradually subdued by the central

authority. But the majority of the towns had preserved enough of

vitality to come out of the turmoil with a new life and

vigour.14 A new period of rejuvenescence was their reward. New

life was infused, and it found its expression in splendid

architectural monuments, in a new period of prosperity, in a

sudden progress of technics and invention, and in a new

intellectual movement leading to the Renaissance and to the


The life of a mediaeval city was a succession of hard battles

to conquer liberty and to maintain it. True, that a strong and

tenacious race of burghers had developed during those fierce

contests; true, that love and worship of the mother city had been

bred by these struggles, and that the grand things achieved by

the mediaeval communes were a direct outcome of that love. But

the sacrifices which the communes had to sustain in the battle

for freedom were, nevertheless, cruel, and left deep traces of

division on their inner life as well. Very few cities had

succeeded, under a concurrence of favourable circumstances, in

obtaining liberty at one stroke, and these few mostly lost it

equally easily; while the great number had to fight fifty or a

hundred years in succession, often more, before their rights to

free life had been recognized, and another hundred years to found

their liberty on a firm basis -- the twelfth century charters

thus being but one of the stepping-stones to freedom.15 In

reality, the mediaeval city was a fortified oasis amidst a

country plunged into feudal submission, and it had to make room

for itself by the force of its arms. In consequence of the causes

briefly alluded to in the preceding chapter, each village

community had gradually fallen under the yoke of some lay or

clerical lord. His house had grown to be a castle, and his

brothers-in-arms were now the scum of adventurers, always ready

to plunder the peasants. In addition to three days a week which

the peasants had to work for the lord, they had also to bear all

sorts of exactions for the right to sow and to crop, to be gay or

sad, to live, to marry, or to die. And, worst of all, they were

continually plundered by the armed robbers of some neighbouring

lord, who chose to consider them as their master's kin, and to

take upon them, and upon their cattle and crops, the revenge for

a feud he was fighting against their owner. Every meadow, every

field, every river, and road around the city, and every man upon

the land was under some lord.

The hatred of the burghers towards the feudal barons has

found a most characteristic expression in the wording of the

different charters which they compelled them to sign. Heinrich V.

is made to sign in the charter granted to Speier in 1111, that he

frees the burghers from "the horrible and execrable law of

mortmain, through which the town has been sunk into deepest

poverty" (von dem scheusslichen und nichtsw?rdigen Gesetze,

welches gemein Budel genannt wird, Kallsen, i. 307). The coutume

of Bayonne, written about 1273, contains such passages as these:

"The people is anterior to the lords. It is the people, more

numerous than all others, who, desirous of peace, has made the

lords for bridling and knocking down the powerful ones, "and so

on (Giry, Etablissements de Rouen, i. 117, Quoted by Luchaire, p.

24). A charter submitted for King Robert's signature is equally

characteristic. He is made to say in it: "I shall rob no oxen nor

other animals. I shall seize no merchants, nor take their moneys,

nor impose ransom. From Lady Day to the All Saints' Day I shall

seize no horse, nor mare, nor foals, in the meadows. I shall not

burn the mills, nor rob the flour... I shall offer no protection

to thieves," etc. (Pfister has published that document,

reproduced by Luchaire). The charter "granted" by the Besan?on

Archbishop Hugues, in which he has been compelled to enumerate

all the mischiefs due to his mortmain rights, is equally

characteristic.16 And so on.

Freedom could not be maintained in such surroundings, and the

cities were compelled to carry on the war outside their walls.

The burghers sent out emissaries to lead revolt in the villages;

they received villages into their corporations, and they waged

direct war against the nobles. It Italy, where the land was

thickly sprinkled with feudal castles, the war assumed heroic

proportions, and was fought with a stern acrimony on both sides.

Florence sustained for seventy-seven years a succession of bloody

wars, in order to free its contado from the nobles; but when the

conquest had been accomplished (in 1181) all had to begin anew.

The nobles rallied; they constituted their own leagues in

opposition to the leagues of the towns, and, receiving fresh

support from either the Emperor or the Pope, they made the war

last for another 130 years. The same took place in Rome, in

Lombardy, all over Italy.

Prodigies of valour, audacity, and tenaciousness were

displayed by the citizens in these wars. But the bows and the

hatchets of the arts and crafts had not always the upper hand in

their encounters with the armour-clad knights, and many castles

withstood the ingenious siege-machinery and the perseverance of

the citizens. Some cities, like Florence, Bologna, and many towns

in France, Germany, and Bohemia, succeeded in emancipating the

surrounding villages, and they were rewarded for their efforts by

an extraordinary prosperity and tranquillity. But even here, and

still more in the less strong or less impulsive towns, the

merchants and artisans, exhausted by war, and misunderstanding

their own interests, bargained over the peasants' heads. They

compelled the lord to swear allegiance to the city; his country

castle was dismantled, and he agreed to build a house and to

reside in the city, of which he became a co-burgher

(com-bourgeois, con-cittadino); but he maintained in return most

of his rights upon the peasants, who only won a partial relief

from their burdens. The burgher could not understand that equal

rights of citizenship might be granted to the peasant upon whose

food supplies he had to rely, and a deep rent was traced between

town and village. In some cases the peasants simply changed

owners, the city buying out the barons' rights and selling them

in shares to her own citizens.17 Serfdom was maintained, and

only much later on, towards the end of the thirteenth century, it

was the craft revolution which undertook to put an end to it, and

abolished personal servitude, but dispossessed at the same time

the serfs of the land.18 It hardly need be added that the

fatal results of such policy were soon felt by the cities

themselves; the country became the city's enemy.

The war against the castles had another bad effect. It

involved the cities in a long succession of mutual wars, which

have given origin to the theory, till lately in vogue, namely,

that the towns lost their independence through their own

jealousies and mutual fights. The imperialist historians have

especially supported this theory, which, however, is very much

undermined now by modern research. It is certain that in Italy

cities fought each other with a stubborn animosity, but nowhere

else did such contests attain the same proportions; and in Italy

itself the city wars, especially those of the earlier period, had

their special causes. They were (as was already shown by Sismondi

and Ferrari) a mere continuation of the war against the castles

-- the free municipal and federative principle unavoidably

entering into a fierce contest with feudalism, imperialism, and

papacy. Many towns which had but partially shaken off the yoke of

the bishop, the lord, or the Emperor, were simply driven against

the free cities by the nobles, the Emperor, and Church, whose

policy was to divide the cities and to arm them against each

other. These special circumstances (partly reflected on to

Germany also) explain why the Italian towns, some of which

Sollght support with the Emperor to combat the Pope, while the

others sought support from the Church to resist the Emperor, were

soon divided into a Gibelin and a Guelf camp, and why the same

division appeared in each separate city.19

The immense economical progress realized by most italian

cities just at the time when these wars were hottest,20 and

the alliances so easily concluded between towns, still better

characterize those struggles and further undermine the above

theory. Already in the years 1130-1150 powerful leagues came into

existence; and a few years later, when Frederick Barbarossa

invaded Italy and, supported by the nobles and some retardatory

cities, marched against Milan, popular enthusiasm was roused in

many towns by popular preachers. Crema, Piacenza, Brescia,

Tortona, etc., went to the rescue; the banners of the guilds of

Verona, Padua, Vicenza, and Trevisa floated side by side in the

cities' camp against the banners of the Emperor and the nobles.

Next year the Lombardian League came into existence, and sixty

years later we see it reinforced by many other cities, and

forming a lasting organization which had half of its federal

war-chest in Genoa and the other half in Venice.21 In Tuscany,

Florence headed another powerful league, to which Lucca, Bologna,

Pistoia, etc., belonged, and which played an important part in

crushing down the nobles in middle Italy, while smaller leagues

were of common occurrence. It is thus certain that although petty

jealousies undoubtedly existed, and discord could be easily sown,

they did not prevent the towns from uniting together for the

common defence of liberty. Only later on, when separate cities

became little States, wars broke out between them, as always must

be the case when States struggle for supremacy or colonies.

Similar leagues were formed in Germany for the same purpose.

When, under the successors of Conrad, the land was the prey of

interminable feuds between the nobles, the Westphalian towns

concluded a league against the knights, one of the clauses of

which was never to lend money to a knight who would continue to

conceal stolen goods.22 When "the knights and the nobles lived

on plunder, and murdered whom they chose to murder," as the

Wormser Zorn complains, the cities on the Rhine (Mainz, Cologne,

Speier, Strasburg, and Basel) took the initiative of a league

which soon numbered sixty allied towns, repressed the robbers,

and maintained peace. Later on, the league of the towns of

Suabia, divided into three "peace districts" (Augsburg,

Constance, and Ulm), had the same purpose. And even when such

leagues were broken,23 they lived long enough to show that

while the supposed peacemakers -- the kings, the emperors, and

the Church-fomented discord, and were themselves helpless against

the robber knights, it was from the cities that the impulse came

for re-establishing peace and union. The cities -- not the

emperors -- were the real makers of the national unity.24

Similar federations were organized for the same purpose among

small villages, and now that attention has been drawn to this

subject by Luchaire we may expect soon to learn much more about

them. Villages joined into small federations in the contado of

Florence, so also in the dependencies of Novgorod and Pskov. As

to France, there is positive evidence of a federation of

seventeen peasant villages which has existed in the Laonnais for

nearly a hundred years (till 1256), and has fought hard for its

independence. Three more peasant republics, which had sworn

charters similar to those of Laon and Soissons, existed in the

neighbourhood of Laon, and, their territories being contiguous,

they supported each other in their liberation wars. Altogether,

Luchaire is of the opinion that many such federations must have

come into existence in France in the twelfth and thirteenth

centuries, but that documents relative to them are mostly lost.

Of course, being unprotected by walls, they could easily be

crushed down by the kings and the lords; but in certain

favourable circumstances, when they found support in a league of

towns and protection in their mountains, such peasant republics

became independent units of the Swiss Confederation.25

As to unions between cities for peaceful purposes, they were

of quite common occurrence. The intercourse which had been

established during the period of liberation was not interrupted

afterwards. Sometimes, when the scabini of a German town, having

to pronounce judgment in a new or complicated case, declared that

they knew not the sentence (des Urtheiles nicht weise zu sein),

they sent delegates to another city to get the sentence. The same

happened also in France;26 while Forli and Ravenna are known

to have mutually naturalized their citizens and granted them full

rights in both cities. To submit a contest arisen between two

towns, or within a city, to another commune which was invited to

act as arbiter, was also in the spirit of the times.27 As to

commercial treaties between cities, they were quite

habitual.28 Unions for regulating the production and the sizes

of casks which were used for the commerce in wine, "herring

unions," and so on, were mere precursors of the great commercial

federations of the Flemish Hansa, and, later on, of the great

North German Hansa, the history of which alone might contribute

pages and pages to illustrate the federation spirit which

permeated men at that time. It hardly need be added, that through

the Hanseatic unions the medieval cities have contributed more to

the development of international intercourse, navigation, and

maritime discovery than all the States of the first seventeen

centuries of our era.

In a word, federations between small territorial units, as

well as among men united by common pursuits within their

respective guilds, and federations between cities and groups of

cities constituted the very essence of life and thought during

that period. The first five of the second decade of centuries of

our era may thus be described as an immense attempt at securing

mutual aid and support on a grand scale, by means of the

principles of federation and association carried on through all

manifestations of human life and to all possible degrees. This

attempt was attended with success to a very great extent. It

united men formerly divided; it secured them a very great deal of

freedom, and it tenfolded their forces. At a time when

particularism was bred by so many agencies, and the causes of

discord and jealousy might have been so numerous, it is

gratifying to see that cities scattered over a wide continent had

so much in common, and were so ready to confederate for the

prosecution of so many common aims. They succumbed in the long

run before powerful enemies; not having understood the mutual-aid

principle widely enough, they themselves committed fatal faults;

but they did not perish through their own jealousies, and their

errors were not a want of federation spirit among themselves.

The results of that new move which mankind made in the

medieval city were immense. At the beginning of the eleventh

century the towns of Europe were small clusters of miserable

huts, adorned but with low clumsy churches, the builders of which

hardly knew how to make an arch; the arts, mostly consisting of

some weaving and forging, were in their infancy; learning was

found in but a few monasteries. Three hundred and fifty years

later, the very face of Europe had been changed. The land was

dotted with rich cities, surrounded by immense thick walls which

were embellished by towers and gates, each of them a work of art

in itself. The cathedrals, conceived in a grand style and

profusely decorated, lifted their bell-towers to the skies,

displaying a purity of form and a boldness of imagination which

we now vainly strive to attain. The crafts and arts had risen to

a degree of perfection which we can hardly boast of having

superseded in many directions, if the inventive skill of the

worker and the superior finish of his work be appreciated higher

than rapidity of fabrication. The navies of the free cities

furrowed in all directions the Northern and the Southern

Mediterranean; one effort more, and they would cross the oceans.

Over large tracts of land well-being had taken the place of

misery; learning had grown and spread. The methods of science had

been elaborated; the basis of natural philosophy had been laid

down; and the way had been paved for all the mechanical

inventions of which our own times are so proud. Such were the

magic changes accomplished in Europe in less than four hundred

years. And the losses which Europe sustained through the loss of

its free cities can only be understood when we compare the

seventeenth century with the fourteenth or the thirteenth. The

prosperity which formerly characterized Scotland, Germany, the

plains of Italy, was gone. The roads had fallen into an abject

state, the cities were depopulated, labour was brought into

slavery, art had vanished, commerce itself was decaying.29

If the medieval cities had bequeathed to us no written

documents to testify of their splendour, and left nothing behind

but the monuments of building art which we see now all over

Europe, from Scotland to Italy, and from Gerona in Spain to

Breslau in Slavonian territory, we might yet conclude that the

times of independent city life were times of the greatest

development of human intellect during the Christian era down to

the end of the eighteenth century. On looking, for instance, at a

medieval picture representing Nuremberg with its scores of towers

and lofty spires, each of which bore the stamp of free creative

art, we can hardly conceive that three hundred years before the

town was but a collection of miserable hovels. And our admiration

grows when we go into the details of the architecture and

decorations of each of the countless churches, bell-towers,

gates, and communal houses which are scattered all over Europe as

far east as Bohemia and the now dead towns of Polish Galicia. Not

only Italy, that mother of art, but all Europe is full of such

monuments. The very fact that of all arts architecture -- a

social art above all -- had attained the highest development, is

significant in itself. To be what it was, it must have originated

from an eminently social life.

Medieval architecture attained its grandeur -- not only

because it was a natural development of handicraft; not only

because each building, each architectural decoration, had been

devised by men who knew through the experience of their own hands

what artistic effects can be obtained from stone, iron, bronze,

or even from simple logs and mortar; not only because, each

monument was a result of collective experience, accumulated in

each "mystery" or craft30 -- it was grand because it was born

out of a grand idea. Like Greek art, it sprang out of a

conception of brotherhood and unity fostered by the city. It had

an audacity which could only be won by audacious struggles and

victories; it had that expression of vigour, because vigour

permeated all the life of the city. A cathedral or a communal

house symbolized the grandeur of an organism of which every mason

and stone-cutter was the builder, and a medieval building appears

-- not as a solitary effort to which thousands of slaves would

have contributed the share assigned them by one man's

imagination; all the city contributed to it. The lofty bell-tower

rose upon a structure, grand in itself, in which the life of the

city was throbbing -- not upon a meaningless scaffold like the

Paris iron tower, not as a sham structure in stone intended to

conceal the ugliness of an iron frame, as has been done in the

Tower Bridge. Like the Acropolis of Athens, the cathedral of a

medieval city was intended to glorify the grandeur of the

victorious city, to symbolize the union of its crafts, to express

the glory of each citizen in a city of his own creation. After

having achieved its craft revolution, the city often began a new

cathedral in order to express the new, wider, and broader union

which had been called into life.

The means at hand for these grand undertakings were

disproportionately small. Cologne Cathedral was begun with a

yearly outlay of but 500 marks; a gift of 100 marks was inscribed

as a grand donation;31 and even when the work approached

completion, and gifts poured in in proportion, the yearly outlay

in money stood at about 5,000 marks, and never exceeded 14,000.

The cathedral of Basel was built with equally small means. But

each corporation contributed its part of stone, work, and

decorative genius to their common monument. Each guild expressed

in it its political conceptions, telling in stone or in bronze

the history of the city, glorifying the principles of "Liberty,

equality, and fraternity,"32 praising the city's allies, and

sending to eternal fire its enemies. And each guild bestowed its

love upon the communal monument by richly decorating it with

stained windows, paintings, "gates, worthy to be the gates of

Paradise," as Michel Angelo said, or stone decorations of each

minutest corner of the building.33 Small cities, even small

parishes,34 vied with the big agglomerations in this work, and

the cathedrals of Laon and St. Ouen hardly stand behind that of

Rheims, or the Communal House of Bremen, or the folkmote's

bell-tower of Breslau. "No works must be begun by the commune but

such as are conceived in response to the grand heart of the

commune, composed of the hearts of all citizens, united in one

common will" -- such were the words of the Council of Florence;

and this spirit appears in all communal works of common utility,

such as the canals, terraces, vineyards, and fruit gardens around

Florence, or the irrigation canals which intersected the plains

of Lombardy, or the port and aqueduct of Genoa, or, in fact, any

works of the kind which were achieved by almost every city.35

All arts had progressed in the same way in the medieval

cities, those of our own days mostly being but a continuation of

what had grown at that time. The prosperity of the Flemish cities

was based upon the fine woollen cloth they fabricated. Florence,

at the beginning of the fourteenth century, before the black

death, fabricated from 70,000 to 100,000 panni of woollen stuffs,

which were valued at 1,200,000 golden florins.36 The

chiselling of precious metals, the art of casting, the fine

forging of iron, were creations of the medi?val "mysteries" which

had succeeded in attaining in their own domains all that could be

made by the hand, without the use of a powerful prime motor. By

the hand and by invention, because, to use Whewell's words:

"Parchment and paper, printing and engraving, improved glass

and steel, gunpowder, clocks, telescopes, the mariner's compass,

the reformed calendar, the decimal notation; algebra,

trigonometry, chemistry, counterpoint (an invention equivalent to

a new creation of music); these are all possessions which we

inherit from that which has so disparagingly been termed the

Stationary Period" (History of Inductive Sciences, i. 252).

True that no new principle was illustrated by any of these

discoveries, as Whewell said; but medieval science had done

something more than the actual discovery of new principles. It

had prepared the discovery of all the new principles which we

know at the present time in mechanical sciences: it had

accustomed the explorer to observe facts and to reason from them.

It was inductive science, even though it had not yet fully

grasped the importance and the powers of induction; and it laid

the foundations of both mechanics and natural philosophy. Francis

Bacon, Galileo, and Copernicus were the direct descendants of a

Roger Bacon and a Michael Scot, as the steam engine was a direct

product of the researches carried on in the Italian universities

on the weight of the atmosphere, and of the mathematical and

technical learning which characterized Nuremberg.

But why should one take trouble to insist upon the advance of

science and art in the medieval city? Is it not enough to point

to the cathedrals in the domain of skill, and to the Italian

language and the poem of Dante in the domain of thought, to give

at once the measure of what the medieval city created during the

four centuries it lived?

The medieval cities have undoubtedly rendered an immense

service to European civilization. They have prevented it from

being drifted into the theocracies and despotical states of old;

they have endowed it with the variety, the self-reliance, the

force of initiative, and the immense intellectual and material

energies it now possesses, which are the best pledge for its

being able to resist any new invasion of the East. But why did

these centres of civilization, which attempted to answer to

deeply-seated needs of human nature, and were so full of life,

not live further on? Why were they seized with senile debility in

the sixteenth century? and, after having repulsed so many

assaults from without, and only borrowed new vigour from their

interior struggles, why did they finally succumb to both?

Various causes contributed to this effect, some of them

having their roots in the remote past, while others originated in

the mistakes committed by the cities themselves. Towards the end

of the fifteenth century, mighty States, reconstructed on the old

Roman pattern, were already coming into existence. In each

country and each region some feudal lord, more cunning, more

given to hoarding, and often less scrupulous than his neighbours,

had succeeded in appropriating to himself richer personal

domains, more peasants on his lands, more knights in his

following, more treasures in his chest. He had chosen for his

seat a group of happily-situated villages, not yet trained into

free municipal life -- Paris, Madrid, or Moscow -- and with the

labour of his serfs he had made of them royal fortified cities,

whereto he attracted war companions by a free distribution of

villages, and merchants by the protection he offered to trade.

The germ of a future State, which began gradually to absorb other

similar centres, was thus laid. Lawyers, versed in the study of

Roman law, flocked into such centres; a tenacious and ambitious

race of men issued from among the burgesses, who equally hated

the naughtiness of the lords and what they called the lawlessness

of the peasants. The very forms of the village community, unknown

to their code, the very principles of federalism were repulsive

to them as "barbarian" inheritances. Caesarism, supported by the

fiction of popular consent and by the force of arms, was their

ideal, and they worked hard for those who promised to realize


The Christian Church, once a rebel against Roman law and now

its ally, worked in the same direction. The attempt at

constituting the theocratic Empire of Europe having proved a

failure, the more intelligent and ambitious bishops now yielded

support to those whom they reckoned upon for reconstituting the

power of the Kings of Israel or of the Emperors of

Constantinople. The Church bestowed upon the rising rulers her

sanctity, she crowned them as God's representatives on earth, she

brought to their service the learning and the statesmanship of

her ministers, her blessings and maledictions, her riches, and

the sympathies she had retained among the poor. The peasants,

whom the cities had failed or refused to free, on seeing the

burghers impotent to put an end to the interminable wars between

the knights -- which wars they had so dearly to pay for -- now

set their hopes upon the King, the Emperor, or the Great Prince;

and while aiding them to crush down the mighty feudal owners,

they aided them to constitute the centralized State. And finally,

the invasions of the Mongols and the Turks, the holy war against

the Maures in Spain, as well as the terrible wars which soon

broke out between the growing centres of sovereignty -- Ile de

France and Burgundy, Scotland and England, England and France,

Lithuania and Poland, Moscow and Tver, and so on -- contributed

to the same end. Mighty States made their appearance; and the

cities had now to resist not only loose federations of lords, but

strongly-organized centres, which had armies of serfs at their


The worst was, that the growing autocracies found support in

the divisions which had grown within the cities themselves. The

fundamental idea of the medieval city was grand, but it was not

wide enough. Mutual aid and support cannot be limited to a small

association; they must spread to its surroundings, or else the

surroundings will absorb the association. And in this respect the

medieval citizen had committed a formidable mistake at the

outset. Instead of looking upon the peasants and artisans who

gathered under the protection of his walls as upon so many aids

who would contribute their part to the making of the city -- as

they really did -- a sharp division was traced between the

"families" of old burghers and the newcomers. For the former, all

benefits from communal trade and communal lands were reserved,

and nothing was left for the latter but the right of freely using

the skill of their own hands. The city thus became divided into

"the burghers" or "the commonalty," and "the inhabitants."38

The trade, which was formerly communal, now became the privilege

of the merchant and artisan "families," and the next step -- that

of becoming individual, or the privilege of oppressive trusts --

was unavoidable.

The same division took place between the city proper and the

surrounding villages. The commune had well tried to free the

peasants, but her wars against the lords became, as already

mentioned, wars for freeing the city itself from the lords,

rather than for freeing the peasants. She left to the lord his

rights over the villeins, on condition that he would molest the

city no more and would become co-burgher. But the nobles

"adopted" by the city, and now residing within its walls, simply

carried on the old war within the very precincts of the city.

They disliked to submit to a tribunal of simple artisans and

merchants, and fought their old feuds in the streets. Each city

had now its Colonnas and Orsinis, its Overstolzes and Wises.

Drawing large incomes from the estates they had still retained,

they surrounded themselves with numerous clients and feudalized

the customs and habits of the city itself. And when discontent

began to be felt in the artisan classes of the town, they offered

their sword and their followers to settle the differences by a

free fight, instead of letting the discontent find out the

channels which it did not fail to secure itself in olden times.

The greatest and the most fatal error of most cities was to

base their wealth upon commerce and industry, to the neglect of

agriculture. They thus repeated the error which had once been

committed by the cities of antique Greece, and they fell through

it into the same crimes.39 The estrangement of so many cities

from the land necessarily drew them into a policy hostile to the

land, which became more and more evident in the times of Edward

the Third,40 the French Jacqueries, the Hussite wars, and the

Peasant War in Germany. On the other hand, a commercial policy

involved them in distant enterprises. Colonies were founded by

the Italians in the south-east, by German cities in the east, by

Slavonian cities in the far northeast. Mercenary armies began to

be kept for colonial wars, and soon for local defence as well.

Loans were contacted to such an extent as to totally demoralize

the citizens; and internal contests grew worse and worse at each

election, during which the colonial politics in the interest of a

few families was at stake. The division into rich and poor grew

deeper, and in the sixteenth century, in each city, the royal

authority found ready allies and support among the poor.

And there is yet another cause of the decay of communal

institutions, which stands higher and lies deeper than all the

above. The history of the medieval cities offers one of the most

striking illustrations of the power of ideas and principles upon

the destinies of mankind, and of the quite opposed results which

are obtained when a deep modification of leading ideas has taken

place. Self-reliance and federalism, the sovereignty of each

group, and the construction of the political body from the simple

to the composite, were the leading ideas in the eleventh century.

But since that time the conceptions had entirely changed. The

students of Roman law and the prelates of the Church, closely

bound together since the time of Innocent the Third, had

succeeded in paralyzing the idea -- the antique Greek idea --

which presided at the foundation of the cities. For two or three

hundred years they taught from the pulpit, the University chair,

and the judges' bench, that salvation must be sought for in a

strongly-centralized State, placed under a semi-divine

authority;41 that one man can and must be the saviour of

society, and that in the name of public salvation he can commit

any violence: burn men and women at the stake, make them perish

under indescribable tortures, plunge whole provinces into the

most abject misery. Nor did they fail to give object lessons to

this effect on a grand scale, and with an unheard-of cruelty,

wherever the king's sword and the Church's fire, or both at once,

could reach. By these teachings and examples, continually

repeated and enforced upon public attention, the very minds of

the citizens had been shaped into a new mould. They began to find

no authority too extensive, no killing by degrees too cruel, once

it was "for public safety." And, with this new direction of mind

and this new belief in one man's power, the old federalist

principle faded away, and the very creative genius of the masses

died out. The Roman idea was victorious, and in such

circumstances the centralized State had in the cities a ready


Florence in the fifteenth century is typical of this change.

Formerly a popular revolution was the signal of a new departure.

Now, when the people, brought to despair, insurged, it had

constructive ideas no more; no fresh idea came out of the

movement. A thousand representatives were put into the Communal

Council instead of 400; 100 men entered the signoria instead of

80. But a revolution of figures could be of no avail. The

people's discontent was growing up, and new revolts followed. A

saviour -- the "tyran" -- was appealed to; he massacred the

rebels, but the disintegration of the communal body continued

worse than ever. And when, after a new revolt, the people of

Florence appealed to their most popular man, Gieronimo

Savonarola, for advice, the monk's answer was: -- "Oh, people

mine, thou knowest that I cannot go into State affairs... purify

thy soul, and if in such a disposition of mind thou reformest thy

city, then, people of Florence, thou shalt have inaugurated the

reform in all Italy!" Carnival masks and vicious books were

burned, a law of charity and another against usurers were passed

-- and the democracy of Florence remained where it was. The old

spirit had gone. By too much trusting to government, they had

ceased to trust to themselves; they were unable to open new

issues. The State had only to step in and to crush down their

last liberties.

And yet, the current of mutual aid and support did not die

out in the masses, it continued to flow even after that defeat.

It rose up again with a formidable force, in answer to the

communist appeals of the first propagandists of the reform, and

it continued to exist even after the masses, having failed to

realize the life which they hoped to inaugurate under the

inspiration of a reformed religion, fell under the dominions of

an autocratic power. It flows still even now , and it seeks its

way to find out a new expression which would not be the State,

nor the medieval city, nor the village community of the

barbarians, nor the savage clan, but would proceed from all of

them, and yet be superior to them in its wider and more deeply

humane conceptions.


1 The literature of the subject is immense; but there is no work
yet which treats of the medieval city as of a whole. For the
French Communes, Augustin Thierry's Lettres and Consid?rations
sur l'histoire de France still remain classical, and Luchaire's
Communes fran?aises is an excellent addition on the same lines.
For the cities of Italy, the great work of Sismondi (Histoire des
r?publiques italiennes du moyen ?ge, Paris, 1826, 16 vols.), Leo
and Botta's History of Italy, Ferrari's R?volutions d'Italie, and
Hegel's Geschichte der St?dteverfassung in Italien, are the chief
sources of general information. For Germany we have Maurer's
St?dteverfassung, Barthold's Geschichte der deutschen St?dte,
and, of recent works, Hegel's St?dte und Gilden der germanischen
V?lker (2 vols. Leipzig, 1891), and Dr. Otto Kallsen's Die
deutschen St?dte im Mittelalter (2 vols. Halle, 1891), as also
Janssen's Geschichte des deutschen Volkes (5 vols. 1886), which,
let us hope, will soon be translated into English (French
translation in 1892). For Belgium, A. Wauters, Les Libert?s
communales (Bruxelles, 1869-78, 3 vols.). For Russia, Byelaeff's,
Kostomaroff's and Sergievich's works. And finally, for England,
we posses one of the best works on cities of a wider region in
Mrs. J.R. Green's Town Life in the Fifteenth Century (2 vols.
London, 1894). We have, moreover, a wealth of well-known local
histories, and several excellent works of general or economical
history which I have so often mentioned in this and the preceding
chapter. The richness of literature consists, however, chiefly in
separate, sometimes admirable, researches into the history of
separate cities, especially Italian and German; the guilds; the
land question; the economical principles of the time. the
economical importance of guilds and crafts; the leagues between,
cities (the Hansa); and communal art. An incredible wealth of
information is contained in works of this second category, of
which only some of the more important are named in these pages.
2 Kulischer, in an excellent essay on primitive trade
(Zeitschrift f?r V?lkerpsychologie, Bd. x. 380), also points out
that, according to Herodotus, the Argippaeans were considered
inviolable, because the trade between the Scythians and the
northern tribes took place on their territory. A fugitive was
sacred on their territory, and they were often asked to act as
arbiters for their neighbours. See Appendix XI.
3 Some discussion has lately taken place upon the Weichbild and
the Weichbild-law, which still remain obscure (see Z?pfl,
Alterth?mer des deutschen Reichs und Rechts, iii. 29; Kallsen, i.
316). The above explanation seems to be the more probable, but,
of course, it must be tested by further research. It is also
evident that, to use a Scotch expression, the "mercet cross"
could be considered as an emblem of Church jurisdiction, but we
find it both in bishop cities and in those in which the folkmote
was sovereign.
4 For all concerning the merchant guild see Mr. Gross's
exhaustive work, The Guild Merchant (Oxford, 1890, 2 vols.); also
Mrs. Green's remarks in Town Life in the Fifteenth Century, vol.
ii. chaps. v. viii. x; and A. Doren's review of the subject in
Schmoller's Forschungen, vol. xii. If the considerations
indicated in the previous chapter (according to which trade was
communal at its beginnings) prove to be correct, it will be
permissible to suggest as a probable hypothesis that the guild
merchant was a body entrusted with commerce in the interest of
the whole city, and only gradually became a guild of merchants
trading for themselves; while the merchant adventurers of this
country, the Novgorod povolniki (free colonizers and merchants)
and the mercati personati, would be those to whom it was left to
open new markets and new branches of commerce for themselves.
Altogether, it must be remarked that the origin of the mediaeval
city can be ascribed to no separate agency. It was a result of
many agencies in different degrees.
5 Janssen's Geschichte des deutschen Volkes, i. 315; Gramich's
W?rzburg; and, in fact, any collection of ordinances.
6 Falke, Geschichtliche Statistik, i. 373-393, and ii. 66;
quoted in Janssen's Geschichte, i. 339; J.D. Blavignac, in
Comptes et d?penses de la construction du clocher de
Saint-Nicolas ? Fribourg en Suisse, comes to a similar
conclusion. For Amiens, De Calonne's Vie Municipale, p. 99 and
Appendix. For a thorough appreciation and graphical
representation of the medieval wages in England and their value
in bread and meat, see G. Steffen's excellent article and curves
in The Nineteenth Century for 1891, and Studier ?fver
l?nsystemets historia i England, Stockholm, 1895.
7 To quote but one example out of many which may be found in
Sch?nberg's and Falke's works, the sixteen shoemaker workers
(Schusterknechte) of the town Xanten, on the Rhine, gave, for
erecting a screen and an altar in the church, 75 guldens of
subscriptions, and 12 guldens out of their box, which money was
worth, according to the best valuations, ten times its present
8 Quoted by Janssen, l.c. i. 343.
9 The Economical Interpretation of History, London, 1891, p.
10 Janssen, l.c. See also Dr. Alwin Schultz, Deutsches Leben im
XIV und XV Jahrhundert, grosse Ausgabe, Wien, 1892, pp. 67 seq.
At Paris, the day of labour varied from seven to eight hours in
the winter to fourteen hours in summer in certain trades, while
in others it was from eight to nine hours in winter, to from ten
to twelve in Summer. All work was stopped on Saturdays and on
about twenty-five other days (jours de commun de vile foire) at
four o'clock, while on Sundays and thirty other holidays there
was no work at all. The general conclusion is, that the medieval
worker worked less hours, all taken, than the present-day worker
(Dr. E. Martin Saint-L?on, Histoire des corporations, p. 121).
11 W. Stieda, "Hansische Vereinbarungen ?ber st?dtisches Gewerbe
im XIV und XV Jahrhundert," in Hansische Geschichtsbl?tter,
Jahrgang 1886, p. 121. Sch?nberg's Wirthschaftliche Bedeutung der
Z?nfte; also, partly, Roscher.
12 See Toulmin Smith's deeply-felt remarks about the royal
spoliation of the guilds, in Miss Smith's Introduction to English
Guilds. In France the same royal spoliation and abolition of the
guilds' jurisdiction was begun from 1306, and the final blow was
struck in 1382 (Fagniez, l.c. pp. 52-54).
13 Adam Smith and his contemporaries knew well what they were
condemning when they wrote against the State interference in
trade and the trade monopolies of State creation. Unhappily,
their followers, with their hopeless superficiality, flung
medieval guilds and State interference into the same sack, making
no distinction between a Versailles edict and a guild ordinance.
It hardly need be said that the economists who have seriously
studied the subject, like Sch?nberg (the editor of the well-known
course of Political Economy), never fell into such an error. But,
till lately, diffuse discussions of the above type went on for
economical "science."
14 In Florence the seven minor arts made their revolution in
1270-82, and its results are fully described by Perrens (Histoire
de Florence, Paris, 1877, 3 vols.), and especially by Gino
Capponi (Storia della repubblica di Firenze, 2da edizione, 1876,
i. 58-80; translated into German). In Lyons, on the contrary,
where the movement of the minor crafts took place in 1402, the
latter were defeated and lost the right of themselves nominating
their own judges. The two parties came apparently to a
compromise. In Rostock the same movement took place in 1313; in
Z?rich in 1336; in Bern in 1363; in Braunschweig in 1374, and
next year in Hamburg; in L?beck in 1376-84; and so on. See
Schmoller's Strassburg zur Zeit der Zunftk?mpfe and Strassburg's
Bl?the; Brentano's Arbeitergilden der Gegenwart, 2 vols.,
Leipzig, 1871-72; Eb. Bain's Merchant and Craft Guilds, Aberdeen,
1887, pp. 26-47, 75, etc. As to Mr. Gross's opinion relative to
the same struggles in England, see Mrs. Green's remarks in her
Town Life in the Fifteenth Century, ii. 190-217; also the chapter
on the Labour Question, and, in fact, the whole of this extremely
interesting volume. Brentano's views on the crafts' struggles,
expressed especially in iii. and iv. of his essay "On the History
and Development of Guilds," in Toulmin Smith's English Guilds
remain classical for the subject, and may be said to have been
again and again confirmed by subsequent research.
15 To give but one example -- Cambrai made its first revolution
in 907, and, after three or four more revolts, it obtained its
charter in 1O76. This charter was repealed twice (11O7 and 1138),
and twice obtained again (in 1127 and 1180). Total, 223 years of
struggles before conquering the right to independence. Lyons --
from 1195 to 132O.
16 See Tuetey, "Etude sur Le droit municipal... en
Franche-Comt?," in M?moires de la Soci?t? d'?mulation de
Montb?liard, 2e s?rie, ii. 129 seq.
17 This seems to have been often the case in Italy. In
Switzerland, Bern bought even the towns of Thun and Burgdorf.
18. Such was, at least, the case in the cities of Tuscany
(Florence, Lucca, Sienna, Bologna, etc.), for which the relations
between city and peasants are best known. (Luchitzkiy, "Slavery
and Russian Slaves in Florence," in Kieff University Izvestia for
1885, who has perused Rumohr's Ursprung der Besitzlosigkeit der
Colonien in Toscana, 1830.) The whole matter concerning the
relations between the cities and the peasants requires much more
study than has hitherto been done.
19 Ferrari's generalizations are often too theoretical to be
always correct; but his views upon the part played by the nobles
in the city wars are based upon a wide range of authenticated
20 Only such cities as stubbornly kept to the cause of the
barons, like Pisa or Verona, lost through the wars. For many
towns which fought on the barons' side, the defeat was also the
beginning of liberation and progress.
21 Ferrari, ii. 18, 104 seq.; Leo and Botta, i. 432.
22 Joh. Falke, Die Hansa als Deutsche See- und Handelsmacht,
Berlin, 1863, pp. 31, 55.
23 For Aachen and Cologne we have direct testimony that the
bishops of these two cities -- one of them bought by the enemy
opened to him the gates.
24 See the facts, though not always the conclusions, of Nitzsch,
iii. 133 seq.; also Kallsen, i. 458, etc.
25 On the Commune of the Laonnais, which, until Melleville's
researches (Histoire de la Commune du Laonnais, Paris, 1853), was
confounded with the Commune of Laon, see Luchaire, pp. 75 seq.
For the early peasants' guilds and subsequent unions see R.
Wilman's "Die l?ndlichen Schutzgilden Westphaliens," in
Zeitschrift f?r Kulturgeschichte, neue Folge, Bd. iii., quoted in
Henne-am-Rhyn's Kulturgeschichte, iii. 249.
26 Luchaire, p. 149.
27 Two important cities, like Mainz and Worms, would settle a
political contest by means of arbitration. After a civil war
broken out in Abbeville, Amiens would act, in 1231, as arbiter
(Luchaire, 149); and so on.
28 See, for instance, W. Stieda, Hansische Vereinbarungen, l.c.,
29 Cosmo Innes's Early Scottish History and Scotland in Middle
Ages, quoted by Rev. Denton, l.c., pp. 68, 69; Lamprecht's
Deutsches wirthschaftliche Leben im Mittelalter, review by
Schmoller in his Jahrbuch, Bd. xii.; Sismondi's Tableau de
l'agriculture toscane, pp. 226 seq. The dominions of Florence
could be recognized at a glance through their prosperity.
30 Mr. John J. Ennett (Six Essays, London, 1891) has excellent
pages on this aspect of medieval architecture. Mr. Willis, in his
appendix to Whewell's History of Inductive Sciences (i. 261-262),
has pointed out the beauty of the mechanical relations in
medieval buildings. "A new decorative construction was matured,"
he writes, "not thwarting and controlling, but assisting and
harmonizing with the mechanical construction. Every member, every
moulding, becomes a sustainer of weight; and by the multiplicity
of props assisting each other, and the consequent subdivision of
weight, the eye was satisfied of the stability of the structure,
notwithstanding curiously slender aspects of the separate parts."
An art which sprang out of the social life of the city could not
be better characterized.
31 Dr. L. Ennen, Der Dom zu K?ln, seine Construction und
Anstaltung, K?ln, 1871.
32 The three statues are among the outer decorations of N?tre
Dame de Paris.
33 Medi?val art, like Greek art, did not know those curiosity
shops which we call a National Gallery or a Museum. A picture was
painted, a statue was carved, a bronze decoration was cast to
stand in its proper place in a monument of communal art. It lived
there, it was part of a whole, and it contributed to give unity
to the impression produced by the whole.
34 Cf. J. T. Ennett's "Second Essay," p. 36.
35 Sismondi, iv. 172; xvi. 356. The great canal, Naviglio
Grande, which brings the water from the Tessino, was begun in
1179, i.e. after the conquest of independence, and it was ended
in the thirteenth century. On the subsequent decay, see xvi. 355.
36 In 1336 it had 8,000 to 10,000 boys and girls in its primary
schools, 1,000 to 1,200 boys in its seven middle schools, and
from 550 to 600 students in its four universities. The thirty
communal hospitals contained over 1,000 beds for a population of
90,000 inhabitants (Capponi, ii. 249 seq.). It has more than once
been suggested by authoritative writers that education stood, as
a rule, at a much higher level than is generally supposed.
Certainly so in democratic Nuremberg.
37 Cf. L. Ranke's excellent considerations upon the essence of
Roman Law in his Weltgeschichte, Bd. iv. Abth. 2, pp. 2O-31. Also
Sismondi's remarks upon the part played by the l?gistes in the
constitution of royal authority, Histoire des Fran?ais, Paris,
1826, viii. 85-99. The popular hatred against these "weise
Doktoren und Beutelschneider des Volks" broke out with full force
in the first years of the sixteenth century in the sermons of the
early Reform movement.
38 Brentano fully understood the fatal effects of the struggle
between the "old burghers" and the new-comers. Miaskowski, in his
work on the village communities of Switzerland, has indicated the
same for village communities.
39 The trade in slaves kidnapped in the East was never
discontinued in the Italian republics till the fifteenth century.
Feeble traces of it are found also in Germany and elsewhere. See
Cibrario. Della schiavit? e del servaggio, 2 vols. Milan, 1868;
Professor Luchitzkiy, "Slavery and Russian Slaves in Florence in
the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Centuries," in Izvestia of the Kieff
University, 1885.
40 J.R. Green's History of the English People, London, 1878, i.
41 See the theories expressed by the Bologna lawyers, already at
the Congress of Roncaglia in 1158.


7. Mutual aid amongst ourselves

Submitted by libcom on January 31, 2006

Popular revolts at the beginning of the State-period. -- Mutual
Aid institutions of the present time. -- The village community;
its struggles for resisting its abolition by the State. -- Habits
derived from the village-community life, retained in our modern
villages. -- Switzerland, France, Germany, Russia.

The mutual-aid tendency in man has so remote an origin, and

is so deeply interwoven with all the past evolution of the human

race, that it has been maintained by mankind up to the present

time, notwithstanding all vicissitudes of history. It was chiefly

evolved during periods of peace and prosperity; but when even the

greatest calamities befell men -- when whole countries were laid

waste by wars, and whole populations were decimated by misery, or

groaned under the yoke of tyranny -- the same tendency continued

to live in the villages and among the poorer classes in the

towns; it still kept them together, and in the long run it

reacted even upon those ruling, fighting, and devastating

minorities which dismissed it as sentimental nonsense. And

whenever mankind had to work out a new social organization,

adapted to a new phasis of development, its constructive genius

always drew the elements and the inspiration for the new

departure from that same ever-living tendency. New economical and

social institutions, in so far as they were a creation of the

masses, new ethical systems, and new religions, all have

originated from the same source, and the ethical progress of our

race, viewed in its broad lines, appears as a gradual extension

of the mutual-aid principles from the tribe to always larger and

larger agglomerations, so as to finally embrace one day the whole

of mankind, without respect to its divers creeds, languages, and


After having passed through the savage tribe, and next

through the village community, the Europeans came to work out in

medieval times a new form of Organization, which had the

advantage of allowing great latitude for individual initiative,

while it largely responded at the same time to man's need of

mutual support. A federation of village communities, covered by a

network of guilds and fraternities, was called into existence in

the medieval cities. The immense results achieved under this new

form of union -- in well-being for all, in industries, art,

science, and commerce -- were discussed at some length in two

preceding chapters, and an attempt was also made to show why,

towards the end of the fifteenth century, the medieval republics

-- surrounded by domains of hostile feudal lords, unable to free

the peasants from servitude, and gradually corrupted by ideas of

Roman Caesarism -- were doomed to become a prey to the growing

military States.

However, before submitting for three centuries to come, to

the all-absorbing authority of the State, the masses of the

people made a formidable attempt at reconstructing society on the

old basis of mutual aid and support. It is well known by this

time that the great movement of the reform was not a mere revolt

against the abuses of the Catholic Church. It had its

constructive ideal as well, and that ideal was life in free,

brotherly communities. Those of the early writings and sermons of

the period which found most response with the masses were imbued

with ideas of the economical and social brotherhood of mankind.

The "Twelve Articles" and similar professions of faith, which

were circulated among the German and Swiss peasants and artisans,

maintained not only every one's right to interpret the Bible

according to his own understanding, but also included the demand

of communal lands being restored to the village communities and

feudal servitudes being abolished, and they always alluded to the

"true" faith -- a faith of brotherhood. At the same time scores

of thousands of men and women joined the communist fraternities

of Moravia, giving them all their fortune and living in numerous

and prosperous settlements constructed upon the principles of

communism.1 Only wholesale massacres by the thousand could put

a stop to this widely-spread popular movement, and it was by the

sword, the fire, and the rack that the young States secured their

first and decisive victory over the masses of the people.2

For the next three centuries the States, both on the

Continent and in these islands, systematically weeded out all

institutions in which the mutual-aid tendency had formerly found

its expression. The village communities were bereft of their

folkmotes, their courts and independent administration; their

lands were confiscated. The guilds were spoliated of their

possessions and liberties, and placed under the control, the

fancy, and the bribery of the State's official. The cities were

divested of their sovereignty, and the very springs of their

inner life -- the folkmote, the elected justices and

administration, the sovereign parish and the sovereign guild --

were annihilated; the State's functionary took possession of

every link of what formerly was an organic whole. Under that

fatal policy and the wars it engendered, whole regions, once

populous and wealthy, were laid bare; rich cities became

insignificant boroughs; the very roads which connected them with

other cities became impracticable. Industry, art, and knowledge

fell into decay. Political education, science, and law were

rendered subservient to the idea of State centralization. It was

taught in the Universities and from the pulpit that the

institutions in which men formerly used to embody their needs of

mutual support could not be tolerated in a properly organized

State; that the State alone could represent the bonds of union

between its subjects; that federalism and "particularism" were

the enemies of progress, and the State was the only proper

initiator of further development. By the end of the last century

the kings on the Continent, the Parliament in these isles, and

the revolutionary Convention in France, although they were at war

with each other, agreed in asserting that no separate unions

between citizens must exist within the State; that hard labour

and death were the only suitable punishments to workers who dared

to enter into "coalitions." "No state within the State!" The

State alone, and the State's Church, must take care of matters of

general interest, while the subjects must represent loose

aggregations of individuals, connected by no particular bonds,

bound to appeal to the Government each time that they feel a

common need. Up to the middle of this century this was the theory

and practice in Europe. Even commercial and industrial societies

were looked at with suspicion. As to the workers, their unions

were treated as unlawful almost within our own lifetime in this

country and within the last twenty years on the Continent. The

whole system of our State education was such that up to the

present time, even in this country, a notable portion of society

would treat as a revolutionary measure the concession of such

rights as every one, freeman or serf, exercised five hundred

years ago in the village folkmote, the guild, the parish, and the


The absorption of all social functions by the State

necessarily favoured the development of an unbridled,

narrow-minded individualism. In proportion as the obligations

towards the State grew in numbers the citizens were evidently

relieved from their obligations towards each other. In the guild

-- and in medieval times every man belonged to some guild or

fraternity two "brothers" were bound to watch in turns a brother

who had fallen ill; it would be sufficient now to give one's

neighbour the address of the next paupers' hospital. In barbarian

society, to assist at a fight between two men, arisen from a

quarrel, and not to prevent it from taking a fatal issue, meant

to be oneself treated as a murderer; but under the theory of the

all-protecting State the bystander need not intrude: it is the

policeman's business to interfere, or not. And while in a savage

land, among the Hottentots, it would be scandalous to eat without

having loudly called out thrice whether there is not somebody

wanting to share the food, all that a respectable citizen has to

do now is to pay the poor tax and to let the starving starve. The

result is, that the theory which maintains that men can, and

must, seek their own happiness in a disregard of other people's

wants is now triumphant all round in law, in science, in

religion. It is the religion of the day, and to doubt of its

efficacy is to be a dangerous Utopian. Science loudly proclaims

that the struggle of each against all is the leading principle of

nature, and of human societies as well. To that struggle Biology

ascribes the progressive evolution of the animal world. History

takes the same line of argument; and political economists, in

their naive ignorance, trace all progress of modern industry and

machinery to the "wonderful" effects of the same principle. The

very religion of the pulpit is a religion of individualism,

slightly mitigated by more or less charitable relations to one's

neighbours, chiefly on Sundays. "Practical" men and theorists,

men of science and religious preachers, lawyers and politicians,

all agree upon one thing -- that individualism may be more or

less softened in its harshest effects by charity, but that it is

the only secure basis for the maintenance of society and its

ulterior progress.

It seems, therefore, hopeless to look for mutual-aid

institutions and practices in modern society. What could remain

of them? And yet, as soon as we try to ascertain how the millions

of human beings live, and begin to study their everyday

relations, we are struck with the immense part which the

mutual-aid and mutual-support principles play even now-a-days in

human life. Although the destruction of mutual-aid institutions

has been going on in practice and theory, for full three or four

hundred years, hundreds of millions of men continue to live under

such institutions; they piously maintain them and endeavour to

reconstitute them where they have ceased to exist. In our mutual

relations every one of us has his moments of revolt against the

fashionable individualistic creed of the day, and actions in

which men are guided by their mutual aid inclinations constitute

so great a part of our daily intercourse that if a stop to such

actions could be put all further ethical progress would be

stopped at once. Human society itself could not be maintained for

even so much as the lifetime of one single generation. These

facts, mostly neglected by sociologists and yet of the first

importance for the life and further elevation of mankind, we are

now going to analyze, beginning with the standing institutions of

mutual support, and passing next to those acts of mutual aid

which have their origin in personal or social sympathies.

When we cast a broad glance on the present constitution of

European society we are struck at once with the fact that,

although so much has been done to get rid of the village

community, this form of union continues to exist to the extent we

shall presently see, and that many attempts are now made either

to reconstitute it in some shape or another or to find some

substitute for it. The current theory as regards the village

community is, that in Western Europe it has died out by a natural

death, because the communal possession of the soil was found

inconsistent with the modern requirements of agriculture. But the

truth is that nowhere did the village community disappear of its

own accord; everywhere, on the contrary, it took the ruling

classes several centuries of persistent but not always successful

efforts to abolish it and to confiscate the communal lands.

In France, the village communities began to be deprived of

their independence, and their lands began to be plundered, as

early as the sixteenth century. However, it was only in the next

century, when the mass of the peasants was brought, by exactions

and wars, to the state of subjection and misery which is vividly

depicted by all historians, that the plundering of their lands

became easy and attained scandalous proportions. "Every one has

taken of them according to his powers... imaginary debts have

been claimed, in order to seize upon their lands; "so we read in

an edict promulgated by Louis the Fourteenth in 1667.3 Of

course the State's remedy for such evils was to render the

communes still more subservient to the State, and to plunder them

itself. in fact, two years later all money revenue of the

communes was confiscated by the King. As to the appropriation of

communal lands, it grew worse and worse, and in the next century

the nobles and the clergy had already taken possession of immense

tracts of land -- one-half of the cultivated area, according to

certain estimates -- mostly to let it go out of culture.4 But

the peasants still maintained their communal institutions, and

until the year 1787 the village folkmotes, composed of all

householders, used to come together in the shadow of the

bell-tower or a tree, to allot and re-allot what they had

retained of their fields, to assess the taxes, and to elect their

executive, just as the Russian mir does at the present time. This

is what Babeau's researches have proved to demonstration.5

The Government found, however, the folkmotes "too noisy," too

disobedient, and in 1787, elected councils, composed of a mayor

and three to six syndics, chosen from among the wealthier

peasants, were introduced instead. Two years later the

Revolutionary Assembl?e Constituante, which was on this point at

one with the old r?gime, fully confirmed this law (on the 14th of

December, 1789), and the bourgeois du village had now their turn

for the plunder of communal lands, which continued all through

the Revolutionary period. Only on the 16th of August, 1792, the

Convention, under the pressure of the peasants' insurrections,

decided to return the enclosed lands to the communes;6 but it

ordered at the same time that they should be divided in equal

parts among the wealthier peasants only -- a measure which

provoked new insurrections and was abrogated next year, in 1793,

when the order came to divide the communal lands among. all

commoners, rich and poor alike, "active" and "inactive."

These two laws, however, ran so much against the conceptions

of the peasants that they were not obeyed, and wherever the

peasants had retaken possession of part of their lands they kept

them undivided. But then came the long years of wars, and the

communal lands were simply confiscated by the State (in 1794) as

a mortgage for State loans, put up for sale, and plundered as

such; then returned again to the communes and confiscated again

(in 1813); and only in 1816 what remained of them, i.e. about

15,000,000 acres of the least productive land, was restored to

the village communities.7 Still this was not yet the end of

the troubles of the communes. Every new r?gime saw in the

communal lands a means for gratifying its supporters, and three

laws (the first in 1837 and the last under Napoleon the Third)

were passed to induce the village communities to divide their

estates. Three times these laws had to be repealed, in

consequence of the opposition they met with in the villages; but

something was snapped up each time, and Napoleon the Third, under

the pretext of encouraging perfected methods of agriculture,

granted large estates out of the communal lands to some of his


As to the autonomy of the village communities, what could be

retained of it after so many blows? The mayor and the syndics

were simply looked upon as unpaid functionaries of the State

machinery. Even now, under the Third Republic, very little can be

done in a village community without the huge State machinery, up

to the pr?fet and the ministries, being set in motion. It is

hardly credible, and yet it is true, that when, for instance, a

peasant intends to pay in money his share in the repair of a

communal road, instead of himself breaking the necessary amount

of stones, no fewer than twelve different functionaries of the

State must give their approval, and an aggregate of fifty-two

different acts must be performed by them, and exchanged between

them, before the peasant is permitted to pay that money to the

communal council. All the remainder bears the same character.8

What took place in France took place everywhere in Western

and Middle Europe. Even the chief dates of the great assaults

upon the peasant lands are the same. For England the only

difference is that the spoliation was accomplished by separate

acts rather than by general sweeping measures -- with less haste

but more thoroughly than in France. The seizure of the communal

lands by the lords also began in the fifteenth century, after the

defeat of the peasant insurrection of 1380 -- as seen from

Rossus's Historia and from a statute of Henry the Seventh, in

which these seizures are spoken of under the heading of

"enormitees and myschefes as be hurtfull... to the common

wele."9 Later on the Great Inquest, under Henry the Eighth,

was begun, as is known, in order to put a stop to the enclosure

of communal lands, but it ended in a sanction of what had been

done.10 The communal lands continued to be preyed upon, and

the peasants were driven from the land. But it was especially

since the middle of the eighteenth century that, in England as

everywhere else, it became part of a systematic policy to simply

weed out all traces of communal ownership; and the wonder is not

that it has disappeared, but that it could be maintained, even in

England, so as to be "generally prevalent so late as the

grandfathers of this generation."11 The very object of the

Enclosure Acts, as shown by Mr. Seebohm, was to remove this

system,12 and it was so well removed by the nearly four

thousand Acts passed between 1760 and 1844 that only faint traces

of it remain now. The land of the village communities was taken

by the lords, and the appropriation was sanctioned by Parliament

in each separate case.

In Germany, in Austria, in Belgium the village community was

also destroyed by the State. Instances of commoners themselves

dividing their lands were rare,13 while everywhere the States

coerced them to enforce the division, or simply favoured the

private appropriation of their lands. The last blow to communal

ownership in Middle Europe also dates from the middle of the

eighteenth century. In Austria sheer force was used by the

Government, in 1768, to compel the communes to divide their lands

-- a special commission being nominated two years later for that

purpose. In Prussia Frederick the Second, in several of his

ordinances (in 1752, 1763, 1765, and 1769), recommended to the

Justizcollegien to enforce the division. In Silesia a special

resolution was issued to serve that aim in 1771. The same took

place in Belgium, and, as the communes did not obey, a law was

issued in 1847 empowering the Government to buy communal meadows

in order to sell them in retail, and to make a forced sale of the

communal land when there was a would-be buyer for it.14

In short, to speak of the natural death of the village

communities in virtue of economical laws is as grim a joke as to

speak of the natural death of soldiers slaughtered on a

battlefield. The fact was simply this: The village communities

had lived for over a thousand years; and where and when the

peasants were not ruined by wars and exactions they steadily

improved their methods of culture. But as the value of land was

increasing, in consequence of the growth of industries, and the

nobility had acquired, under the State organization, a power

which it never had had under the feudal system, it took

possession of the best parts of the communal lands, and did its

best to destroy the communal institutions.

However, the village-community institutions so well respond

to the needs and conceptions of the tillers of the soil that, in

spite of all, Europe is up to this date covered with living

survivals of the village communities, and European country life

is permeated with customs and habits dating from the community

period. Even in England, notwithstanding all the drastic measures

taken against the old order of things, it prevailed as late as

the beginning of the nineteenth century. Mr. Gomme -- one of the

very few English scholars who have paid attention to the subject

-- shows in his work that many traces of the communal possession

of the soil are found in Scotland, "runrig" tenancy having been

maintained in Forfarshire up to 1813, while in certain villages

of Inverness the custom was, up to 1801, to plough the land for

the whole community, without leaving any boundaries, and to allot

it after the ploughing was done. In Kilmorie the allotment and

re-allotment of the fields was in full vigour "till the last

twenty-five years," and the Crofters' Commission found it still

in vigour in certain islands.15 In Ireland the system

prevailed up to the great famine; and as to England, Marshall's

works, which passed unnoticed until Nasse and Sir Henry Maine

drew attention to them, leave no doubt as to the

village-community system having been widely spread, in nearly all

English counties, at the beginning of the nineteenth

century.16 No more than twenty years ago Sir Henry Maine was

"greatly surprised at the number of instances of abnormal

property rights, necessarily implying the former existence of

collective ownership and joint cultivation," which a

comparatively brief inquiry brought under his notice.17 And,

communal institutions having persisted so late as that, a great

number of mutual-aid habits and customs would undoubtedly be

discovered in English villages if the writers of this country

only paid attention to village life.18

As to the Continent, we find the communal institutions fully

alive in many parts of France, Switzerland, Germany, Italy, the

Scandinavian lands, and Spain, to say nothing of Eastern Europe;

the village life in these countries is permeated with communal

habits and customs; and almost every year the Continental

literature is enriched by serious works dealing with this and

connected subjects. I must, therefore, limit my illustrations to

the most typical instances. Switzerland is undoubtedly one of

them. Not only the five republics of Uri, Schwytz, Appenzell,

Glarus, and Unterwalden hold their lands as undivided estates,

and are governed by their popular folkmotes, but in all other

cantons too the village communities remain in possession of a

wide self-government, and own large parts of the Federal

territory.19 Two-thirds of all the Alpine meadows and

two-thirds of all the forests of Switzerland are until now

communal land; and a considerable number of fields, orchards,

vineyards, peat bogs, quarries, and so on, are owned in common.

In the Vaud, where all the householders continue to take part in

the deliberations of their elected communal councils, the

communal spirit is especially alive. Towards the end of the

winter all the young men of each village go to stay a few days in

the woods, to fell timber and to bring it down the steep slopes

tobogganing way, the timber and the fuel wood being divided among

all households or sold for their benefit. These excursions are

real f?tes of manly labour. On the banks of Lake Leman part of

the work required to keep up the terraces of the vineyards is

still done in common; and in the spring, when the thermometer

threatens to fall below zero before sunrise, the watchman wakes

up all householders, who light fires of straw and dung and

protect their vine-trees from the frost by an artificial cloud.

In nearly all cantons the village communities possess so-called.

B?rgernutzen -- that is, they hold in common a number of cows, in

order to supply each family with butter; or they keep communal

fields or vineyards, of which the produce is divided between the

burghers,. or they rent their land for the benefit of the


It may be taken as a rule that where the communes have

retained a wide sphere of functions, so as to be living parts of

the national organism, and where they have not been reduced to

sheer misery, they never fail to take good care of their lands.

Accordingly the communal estates in Switzerland strikingly

contrast with the miserable state of "commons" in this country.

The communal forests in the Vaud and the Valais are admirably

managed, in conformity with the rules of modern forestry.

Elsewhere the "strips" of communal fields, which change owners

under the system of re-allotment, are very well manured,

especially as there is no lack of meadows and cattle. The high

level meadows are well kept as a rule, and the rural roads are

excellent.21 And when we admire the Swiss ch?let, the mountain

road, the peasants' cattle, the terraces of vineyards, or the

school-house in Switzer land, we must keep in mind that without

the timber for the ch?let being taken from the communal woods and

the stone from the communal quarries, without the cows being kept

on the communal meadows, and the roads being made and the

school-houses built by communal work, there would be little to


It hardly need be said that a great number of mutual-aid

habits and customs continue to persist in the Swiss villages. The

evening gatherings for shelling walnuts, which take place in

turns in each household; the evening parties for sewing the dowry

of the girl who is going to marry; the calling of "aids" for

building the houses and taking in the crops, as well as for all

sorts of work which may be required by one of the commoners; the

custom of exchanging children from one canton to the other, in

order to make them learn two languages, French and German; and so

on -- all these are quite habitual;22 while, on the other

side, divers modern requirements are met in the same spirit. Thus

in Glarus most of the Alpine meadows have been sold during a time

of calamity; but the communes still continue to buy field land,

and after the newly-bought fields have been left in the

possession of separate commoners for ten, twenty, or thirty

years, as the case might be, they return to the common stock,

which is re-allotted according to the needs of all. A great

number of small associations are formed to produce some of the

necessaries for life -- bread, cheese, and wine -- by common

work, be it only on a limited scale; and agricultural

co-operation altogether spreads in Switzerland with the greatest

ease. Associations formed between ten to thirty peasants, who buy

meadows and fields in common, and cultivate them as co-owners,

are of common occurrence; while dairy associations for the sale

of milk, butter, and cheese are organized everywhere. In fact,

Switzerland was the birthplace of that form of co-operation. It

offers, moreover, an immense field for the study of all sorts of

small and large societies, formed for the satisfaction of all

sorts of modern wants. In certain parts of Switzerland one finds

in almost every village a number of associations -- for

protection from fire, for boating, for maintaining the quays on

the shores of a lake, for the supply of water, and so on; and the

country is covered with societies of archers, sharpshooters,

topographers, footpath explorers, and the like, originated from

modern militarism.

Switzerland is, however, by no means an exception in Europe,

because the same institutions and habits are found in the

villages of France, of Italy, of Germany, of Denmark, and so on.

We have just seen what has been done by the rulers of France in

order to destroy the village community and to get hold of its

lands; but notwithstanding all that one-tenth part of the whole

territory available for culture, i.e. 13,500,000 acres, including

one-half of all the natural meadows and nearly a fifth part of

all the forests of the country, remain in communal possession.

The woods supply the communers with fuel, and the timber wood is

cut, mostly by communal work, with all desirable regularity; the

grazing lands are free for the commoners' cattle; and what

remains of communal fields is allotted and re-allotted in certain

parts Ardennes -- in the usual of France -- namely, in the


These additional sources of supply, which aid the poorer

peasants to pass through a year of bad crops without parting with

their small plots of land and without running into irredeemable

debts, have certainly their importance for both the agricultural

labourers and the nearly three millions of small peasant

proprietors. It is even doubtful whether small peasant

proprietorship could be maintained without these additional

resources. But the ethical importance of the communal

possessions, small as they are, is still greater than their

economical value. They maintain in village life a nucleus of

customs and habits of mutual aid which undoubtedly acts as a

mighty check upon the development of reckless individualism and

greediness, which small land-ownership is only too prone to

develop. Mutual aid in all possible circumstances of village life

is part of the routine life in all parts of the country.

Everywhere we meet, under different names, with the charroi, i.e.

the free aid of the neighbours for taking in a crop, for vintage,

or for building a house; everywhere we find the same evening

gatherings as have just been mentioned in Switzerland; and

everywhere the commoners associate for all sorts of work. Such

habits are mentioned by nearly all those who have written upon

French village life. But it will perhaps be better to give in

this place some abstracts from letters which I have just received

from a friend of mine whom I have asked to communicate to me his

observations on this subject. They come from an aged man who for

years has been the mayor of his commune in South France (in

Ari?ge); the facts he mentions are known to him from long years

of personal observation, and they have the advantage of coming

from one neighbourhood instead of being skimmed from a large

area. Some of them may seem trifling, but as a whole they depict

quite a little world of village life.

"In several communes in our neighbourhood," my friend writes,

"the old custom of l'emprount is in vigour. When many hands are

required in a m?tairie for rapidly making some work -- dig out

potatoes or mow the grass -- the youth of the neighbourhood is

convoked; young men and girls come in numbers, make it gaily and

for nothing. and in the evening, after a gay meal, they dance.

"In the same communes, when a girl is going to marry, the

girls of the neighbourhood come to aid in sewing the dowry. In

several communes the women still continue to spin a good deal.

When the winding off has to be done in a family it is done in one

evening -- all friends being convoked for that work. In many

communes of the Ari?ge and other parts of the south-west the

shelling of the Indian corn-sheaves is also done by all the

neighbours. They are treated with chestnuts and wine, and the

young people dance after the work has been done. The same custom

is practised for making nut oil and crushing hemp. In the commune

of L. the same is done for bringing in the corn crops. These days

of hard work become f?te days, as the owner stakes his honour on

serving a good meal. No remuneration is given; all do it for each


"In the commune of S. the common grazing-land is every year

increased, so that nearly the whole of the land of the commune is

now kept in common. The shepherds are elected by all owners of

the cattle, including women. The bulls are communal.

"In the commune of M. the forty to fifty small sheep flocks

of the commoners are brought together and divided into three or

four flocks before being sent to the higher meadows. Each owner

goes for a week to serve as shepherd.

"In the hamlet of C. a threshing machine has been bought in

common by several households; the fifteen to twenty persons

required to serve the machine being supplied by all the families.

Three other threshing machines have been bought and are rented

out by their owners, but the work is performed by outside

helpers, invited in the usual way.

"In our commune of R. we had to raise the wall of the

cemetery. Half of the money which was required for buying lime

and for the wages of the skilled workers was supplied by the

county council, and the other half by subscription. As to the

work of carrying sand and water, making mortar, and serving the

masons, it was done entirely by volunteers [just as in the Kabyle

djemm?a]. The rural roads were repaired in the same way, by

volunteer days of work given by the commoners. Other communes

have built in the same way their fountains. The wine-press and

other smaller appliances are frequently kept by the commune."

Two residents of the same neighbourhood, questioned by my

friend, add the following: --

"At O. a few years ago there was no mill. The commune has

built one, levying a tax upon the commoners. As to the miller,

they decided, in order to avoid frauds and partiality, that he

should be paid two francs for each bread-eater, and the corn be

ground free.

"At St. G. few peasants are insured against fire. When a

conflagration has taken place -- so it was lately -- all give

something to the family which has suffered from it -- a chaldron,

a bed-cloth, a chair, and so on -- and a modest household is thus

reconstituted. All the neighbours aid to build the house, and in

the meantime the family is lodged free by the neighbours."

Such habits of mutual support -- of which many more examples

could be given -- undoubtedly account for the easiness with which

the French peasants associate for using, in turn, the plough with

its team of horses, the wine-press, and the threshing machine,

when they are kept in the village by one of them only, as well as

for the performance of all sorts of rural work in common. Canals

were maintained, forests were cleared, trees were planted, and

marshes were drained by the village communities from time

immemorial; and the same continues still. Quite lately, in La

Borne of Loz?re barren hills were turned into rich gardens by

communal work. "The soil was brought on men's backs; terraces

were made and planted with chestnut trees, peach trees, and

orchards, and water was brought for irrigation in canals two or

three miles long." Just now they have dug a new canal, eleven

miles in length.25

To the same spirit is also due the remarkable success lately

obtained by the syndicats agricoles, or peasants' and farmers'

associations. It was not until 1884 that associations of more

than nineteen persons were permitted in France, and I need not

say that when this "dangerous experiment" was ventured upon -- so

it was styled in the Chambers -- all due "precautions" which

functionaries can invent were taken. Notwithstanding all that,

France begins to be covered with syndicates. At the outset they

were only formed for buying manures and seeds, falsification

having attained colossal proportions in these two branches;26

but gradually they extended their functions in various

directions, including the sale of agricultural produce and

permanent improvements of the land. In South France the ravages

of the phylloxera have called into existence a great number of

wine-growers' associations. Ten to thirty growers form a

syndicate, buy a steam-engine for pumping water, and make the

necessary arrangements for inundating their vineyards in

turn.27 New associations for protecting the land from

inundations, for irrigation purposes, and for maintaining canals

are continually formed, and the unanimity of all peasants of a

neighbourhood, which is required by law, is no obstacle.

Elsewhere we have the fruiti?res, or dairy associations, in some

of which all butter and cheese is divided in equal parts,

irrespective of the yield of each cow. In the Ari?ge we find an

association of eight separate communes for the common culture of

their lands, which they have put together; syndicates for free

medical aid have been formed in 172 communes out of 337 in the

same department; associations of consumers arise in connection

with the syndicates; and so on.28 "Quite a revolution is going

on in our villages," Alfred Baudrillart writes, "through these

associations, which take in each region their own special


"Very much the same must be said of Germany. Wherever the

peasants could resist the plunder of their lands, they have

retained them in communal ownership, which largely prevails in

W?rttemberg, Baden, Hohenzollern, and in the Hessian province of

Starkenberg.29 The communal forests are kept, as a rule, in an

excellent state, and in thousands of communes timber and fuel

wood are divided every year among all inhabitants; even the old

custom of the Lesholztag is widely spread: at the ringing of the

village bell all go to the forest to take as much fuel wood as

they can carry.30 In Westphalia one finds communes in which

all the land is cultivated as one common estate, in accordance

with all requirements of modern agronomy. As to the old communal

customs and habits, they are in vigour in most parts of Germany.

The calling in of aids, which are real f?tes of labour, is known

to be quite habitual in Westphalia, Hesse, and Nassau. In

well-timbered regions the timber for a new house is usually taken

from the communal forest, and all the neighbours join in building

the house. Even in the suburbs of Frankfort it is a regular

custom among the gardeners that in case of one of them being ill

all come on Sunday to cultivate his garden.31

In Germany, as in France, as soon as the rulers of the people

repealed their laws against the peasant associations -- that was

only in 1884-1888 -- these unions began to develop with a

wonderful rapidity, notwithstanding all legal obstacles which

were put in their way32 "It is a fact," Buchenberger says,

"that in thousands of village communities, in which no sort of

chemical manure or rational fodder was ever known, both have

become of everyday use, to a quite unforeseen extent, owing to

these associations" (vol. ii. p. 507). All sorts of labour-saving

implements and agricultural machinery, and better breeds of

cattle, are bought through the associations, and various

arrangements for improving the quality of the produce begin to be

introduced. Unions for the sale of agricultural produce are also

formed, as well as for permanent improvements of the land.33

From the point of view of social economics all these efforts

of the peasants certainly are of little importance. They cannot

substantially, and still less permanently, alleviate the misery

to which the tillers of the soil are doomed all over Europe. But

from the ethical point of view, which we are now considering,

their importance cannot be overrated. They prove that even under

the system of reckless individualism which now prevails the

agricultural masses piously maintain their mutual-support

inheritance; and as soon as the States relax the iron laws by

means of which they have broken all bonds between men, these

bonds are at once reconstituted, notwithstanding the

difficulties, political, economical, and social, which are many,

and in such forms as best answer to the modern requirements of

production. They indicate in which direction and in which form

further progress must be expected.

I might easily multiply such illustrations, taking them from

Italy, Spain, Denmark, and so on, and pointing out some

interesting features which are proper to each of these

countries.34 The Slavonian populations of Austria and the

Balkan peninsula, among whom the "compound family," or "undivided

household," is found in existence, ought also to be

mentioned.35 But I hasten to pass on to Russia, where the same

mutual-support tendency takes certain new and unforeseen forms.

Moreover, in dealing with the village community in Russia we have

the advantage: of possessing an immense mass of materials,

collected during the colossal house-to-house inquest which was

lately made by several zemstvos (county councils), and which

embraces a population of nearly 20,000,000 peasants in different

parts of the country.36

Two important conclusions may be drawn from the bulk of

evidence collected by the Russian inquests. In Middle Russia,

where fully one-third of the peasants have been brought to utter

ruin (by heavy taxation, small allotments of unproductive land,

rack rents, and very severe tax-collecting after total failures

of crops), there was, during the first five-and-twenty years

after the emancipation of the serfs, a decided tendency towards

the constitution of individual property in land within the

village communities. Many impoverished "horseless" peasants

abandoned their allotments, and this land often became the

property of those richer peasants, who borrow additional incomes

from trade, or of outside traders, who buy land chiefly for

exacting rack rents from the peasants. It must also be added that

a flaw in the land redemption law of 1861 offered great

facilities for buying peasants' lands at a very small

expense,37 and that the State officials mostly used their

weighty influence in favour of individual as against communal

ownership. However, for the last twenty years a strong wind of

opposition to the individual appropriation of the land blows

again through the Middle Russian villages, and strenuous efforts

are being made by the bulk of those peasants who stand between

the rich and the very poor to uphold the village community. As to

the fertile steppes of the South, which are now the most populous

and the richest part of European Russia, they were mostly

colonized, during the present century, under the system of

individual ownership or occupation, sanctioned in that form by

the State. But since improved methods of agriculture with the aid

of machinery have been introduced in the region, the peasant

owners have gradually begun themselves to transform their

individual ownership into communal possession, and one finds now,

in that granary of Russia, a very great number of spontaneously

formed village communities of recent origin.38

The Crimea and the part of the mainland which lies to the

north of it (the province of Taurida), for which we have detailed

data, offer an excellent illustration of that movement. This

territory began to be colonized, after its annexation in 1783, by

Great, Little, and White Russians -- Cossacks, freemen, and

runaway serfs -- who came individually or in small groups from

all corners of Russia. They took first to cattle-breeding, and

when they began later on to till the soil, each one tilled as

much as he could afford to. But when -- immigration continuing,

and perfected ploughs being introduced -- land stood in great

demand, bitter disputes arose among the settlers. They lasted for

years, until these men, previously tied by no mutual bonds,

gradually came to the idea that an end must be put to disputes by

introducing village-community ownership. They passed decisions to

the effect that the land which they owned individually should

henceforward be their common property, and they began to allot

and to re-allot it in accordance with the usual village-community

rules. The movement gradually took a great extension, and on a

small territory, the Taurida statisticians found 161 villages in

which communal ownership had been introduced by the peasant

proprietors themselves, chiefly in the years 1855-1885, in lieu

of individual ownership. Quite a variety of village-community

types has been freely worked out in this way by the

settlers.39 What adds to the interest of this transformation

is that it took place, not only among the Great Russians, who are

used to village-community life, but also among Little Russians,

who have long since forgotten it under Polish rule, among Greeks

and Bulgarians, and even among Germans, who have long since

worked out in their prosperous and half-industrial Volga colonies

their own type of village community.40 It is evident that the

Mussulman Tartars of Taurida hold their land under the Mussulman

customary law, which is limited personal occupation; but even

with them the European village community has been introduced in a

few cases. As to other nationalities in Taurida, individual

ownership has been abolished in six Esthonian, two Greek, two

Bulgarian, one Czech, and one German village. This movement is

characteristic for the whole of the fertile steppe region of the

south. But separate instances of it are also found in Little

Russia. Thus in a number of villages of the province of Chernigov

the peasants were formerly individual owners of their plots; they

had separate legal documents for their plots and used to rent and

to sell their land at will. But in the fifties of the nineteenth

century a movement began among them in favour of communal

possession, the chief argument being the growing number of pauper

families. The initiative of the reform was taken in one village,

and the others followed suit, the last case on record dating from

1882. Of course there were struggles between the poor, who

usually claim for communal possession, and the rich, who usually

prefer individual ownership; and the struggles often lasted for

years. In certain places the unanimity required then by the law

being impossible to obtain, the village divided into two

villages, one under individual ownership and the other under

communal possession; and so they remained until the two coalesced

into one community, or else they remained divided still As to

Middle Russia, its a fact that in many villages which were

drifting towards individual ownership there began since 1880 a

mass movement in favour of re-establishing the village community.

Even peasant proprietors who had lived for years under the

individualist system returned en masse to the communal

institutions. Thus, there is a considerable number of ex-serfs

who have received one-fourth part only of the regulation

allotments, but they have received them free of redemption and in

individual ownership. There was in 1890 a wide-spread movement

among them (in Kursk, Ryazan, Tambov, Orel, etc.) towards putting

their allotments together and introducing the village community.

The "free agriculturists" (volnyie khlebopashtsy), who were

liberated from serfdom under the law of 1803, and had bought

their allotments -- each family separately -- are now nearly all

under the village-community system, which they have introduced

themselves. All these movements are of recent origin, and

non-Russians too join them. Thus the Bulgares in the district of

Tiraspol, after having remained for sixty years under the

personal-property system, introduced the village community in the

years 1876-1882. The German Mennonites of Berdyansk fought in

1890 for introducing the village community, and the small peasant

proprietors (Kleinwirthschaftliche) among the German Baptists

were agitating in their villages in the same direction. One

instance more: In the province of Samara the Russian government

created in the forties, by way of experiment, 1O3 villages on the

system of individual ownership. Each household received a

splendid property of 105 acres. In 1890, out of the 103 villages

the peasants in 72 had already notified the desire of introducing

the village community. I take all these facts from the excellent

work of V.V., who simply gives, in a classified form, the facts

recorded in the above-mentioned house-to-house inquest.

This movement in favour of communal possession runs badly

against the current economical theories, according to which

intensive culture is incompatible with the village community. But

the most charitable thing that can be said of these theories is

that they have never been submitted to the test of experiment:

they belong to the domain of political metaphysics. The facts

which we have before us show, on the contrary, that wherever the

Russian peasants, owing to a concurrence of favourable

circumstances, are less miserable than they are on the average,

and wherever they find men of knowledge and initiative among

their neighbours, the village community becomes the very means

for introducing various improvements in agriculture and village

life altogether. Here, as elsewhere, mutual aid is a better

leader to progress than the war of each against all, as may be

seen from the following facts.

Under Nicholas the First's rule many Crown officials and

serf-owners used to compel the peasants to introduce the communal

culture of small plots of the village lands, in order to refill

the communal storehouses after loans of grain had been granted to

the poorest commoners. Such cultures, connected in the peasants'

minds with the worst reminiscences of serfdom, were abandoned as

soon as serfdom was abolished but now the peasants begin to

reintroduce them on their own account. In one district

(Ostrogozhsk, in Kursk) the initiative of one person was

sufficient to call them to life in four-fifths of all the

villages. The same is met with in several other localities. On a

given day the commoners come out, the richer ones with a plough

or a cart and the poorer ones single-handed, and no attempt is

made to discriminate one's share in the work. The crop is

afterwards used for loans to the poorer commoners, mostly free

grants, or for the orphans and widows, or for the village church,

or for the school, or for repaying a communal debt.41

That all sorts of work which enters, so to say, in the

routine of village life (repair of roads and bridges, dams,

drainage, supply of water for irrigation, cutting of wood,

planting of trees, etc.) are made by whole communes, and that

land is rented and meadows are mown by whole communes -- the work

being accomplished by old and young, men and women, in the way

described by Tolstoi -- is only what one may expect from people

living under the village-community system.42 They are of

everyday occurrence all over the country. But the village

community is also by no means averse to modern agricultural

improvements, when it can stand the expense, and when knowledge,

hitherto kept for the rich only, finds its way into the peasant's


It has just been said that perfected ploughs rapidly spread

in South Russia, and in many cases the village communities were

instrumental in spreading their use. A plough was bought by the

community, experimented upon on a portion of the communal land,

and the necessary improvements were indicated to the makers, whom

the communes often aided in starting the manufacture of cheap

ploughs as a village industry. In the district of Moscow, where

1,560 ploughs were lately bought by the peasants during five

years, the impulse came from those communes which rented lands as

a body for the special purpose of improved culture.

In the north-east (Vyatka) small associations of peasants,

who travel with their winnowing machines (manufactured as a

village industry in one of the iron districts), have spread the

use of such machines in the neighbouring governments. The very

wide spread of threshing machines in Samara, Saratov, and Kherson

is due to the peasant associations, which can afford to buy a

costly engine, while the individual peasant cannot. And while we

read in nearly all economical treatises that the village

community was doomed to disappear when the three-fields system

had to be substituted by the rotation of crops system, we see in

Russia many village communities taking the initiative of

introducing the rotation of crops. Before accepting it the

peasants usually set apart a portion of the communal fields for

an experiment in artificial meadows, and the commune buys the

seeds.43 If the experiment proves successful they find no

difficulty whatever in re-dividing their fields, so as to suit

the five or six fields system.

This system is now in use in hundreds of villages of Moscow,

Tver, Smolensk, Vyatka, and Pskov.44 And where land can be

spared the communities give also a portion of their domain to

allotments for fruit-growing. Finally, the sudden extension

lately taken in Russia by the little model farms, orchards,

kitchen gardens, and silkworm-culture grounds -- which are

started at the village school-houses, under the conduct of the

school-master, or of a village volunteer -- is also due to the

support they found with the village communities.

Moreover, such permanent improvements as drainage and

irrigation are of frequent occurrence. For instance, in three

districts of the province of Moscow -- industrial to a great

extent -- drainage works have been accomplished within the last

ten years on a large scale in no less than 180 to 200 different

villages -- the commoners working themselves with the spade. At

another extremity of Russia, in the dry Steppes of Novouzen, over

a thousand dams for ponds were built and several hundreds of deep

wells were sunk by the communes; while in a wealthy German colony

of the south-east the commoners worked, men and women alike, for

five weeks in succession, to erect a dam, two miles long, for

irrigation purposes. What could isolated men do in that struggle

against the dry climate? What could they obtain through

individual effort when South Russia was struck with the marmot

plague, and all people living on the land, rich and poor,

commoners and individualists, had to work with their hands in

order to conjure the plague? To call in the policeman would have

been of no use; to associate was the only possible remedy.

And now, after having said so much about mutual aid and

support which are practised by the tillers of the soil in

"civilized" countries, I see that I might fill an octavo volume

with illustrations taken from the life of the hundreds of

millions of men who also live under the tutorship of more or less

centralized States, but are out of touch with modern civilization

and modern ideas. I might describe the inner life of a Turkish

village and its network of admirable mutual-aid customs and

habits. On turning over my leaflets covered with illustrations

from peasant life in Caucasia, I come across touching facts of

mutual support. I trace the same customs in the Arab djemm?a and

the Afghan purra, in the villages of Persia, India, and Java, in

the undivided family of the Chinese, in the encampments of the

semi-nomads of Central Asia and the nomads of the far North. On

consulting notes taken at random in the literature of Africa, I

find them replete with similar facts -- of aids convoked to take

in the crops, of houses built by all inhabitants of the village

-- sometimes to repair the havoc done by civilized filibusters --

of people aiding each other in case of accident, protecting the

traveller, and so on. And when I peruse such works as Post's

compendium of African customary law I understand why,

notwithstanding all tyranny, oppression, robberies and raids,

tribal wars, glutton kings, deceiving witches and priests,

slave-hunters, and the like, these populations have not gone

astray in the woods; why they have maintained a certain

civilization, and have remained men, instead of dropping to the

level of straggling families of decaying orang-outans. The fact

is, that the slave-hunters, the ivory robbers, the fighting

kings, the Matabele and the Madagascar "heroes" pass away,

leaving their traces marked with blood and fire; but the nucleus

of mutual-aid institutions, habits, and customs, grown up in the

tribe and the village community, remains; and it keeps men united

in societies, open to the progress of civilization, and ready to

receive it when the day comes that they shall receive

civilization instead of bullets.

The same applies to our civilized world. The natural and

social calamities pass away. Whole populations are periodically

reduced to misery or starvation; the very springs of life are

crushed out of millions of men, reduced to city pauperism; the

understanding and the feelings of the millions are vitiated by

teachings worked out in the interest of the few. All this is

certainly a part of our existence. But the nucleus of

mutual-support institutions, habits, and customs remains alive

with the millions; it keeps them together; and they prefer to

cling to their customs, beliefs, and traditions rather than to

accept the teachings of a war of each against all, which are

offered to them under the title of science, but are no science at


1 A bulky literature, dealing with this formerly much neglected
subject, is now growing in Germany. Keller's works, Ein Apostel
der Wiedert?ufer and Geschichte der Wiedert?ufer, Cornelius's
Geschichte des m?nsterischen Aufruhrs, and Janssen's Geschichte
des deutschen Volkes may be named as the leading sources. The
first attempt at familiarizing English readers with the results
of the wide researches made in Germany in this direction has been
made in an excellent little work by Richard Heath -- "Anabaptism
from its Rise at Zwickau to its Fall at M?nster, 1521-1536,"
London, 1895 (Baptist Manuals, vol. i.) -- where the leading
features of the movement are well indicated, and full
bibliographical information is given. Also K. Kautsky's Communism
in Central Europe in the Time of the Reformation, London, 1897.
2 Few of our contemporaries realize both the extent of this
movement and the means by which it was suppressed. But those who
wrote immediately after the great peasant war estimated at from
100,000 to 150,000 men the number of peasants slaughtered after
their defeat in Germany. See Zimmermann's Allgemeine Geschichte
des grossen Bauernkrieges. For the measures taken to suppress the
movement in the Netherlands see Richard Heath's Anabaptism.
3 "Chacun s'en est accommod? selon sa biens?ance... on les a
partag?s.. pour d?pouiller les communes, on s'est servi de dettes
simul?es" (Edict of Louis the Fourteenth, of 1667, quoted by
several authors. Eight years before that date the communes had
been taken under State management).
4 "On a great landlord's estate, even if he has millions of
revenue, you are sure to find the land uncultivated" (Arthur
Young). "One-fourth part of the soil went out of culture;" "for
the last hundred years the land has returned to a savage state;"
"the formerly flourishing Sologne is now a big marsh;" and so on
(Th?ron de Montaug?, quoted by Taine in Origines de la France
Contemporaine, tome i. p. 441).
5 A. Babeau, Le Village sous l'Ancien R?gime, 3e ?dition. Paris,
6 In Eastern France the law only confirmed what the peasants had
already done themselves; in other parts of France it usually
remained a dead letter.
7 After the triumph of the middle-class reaction the communal
lands were declared (August 24, 1794) the States domains, and,
together with the lands confiscated from the nobility, were put
up for sale, and pilfered by the bandes noires of the small
bourgeoisie. True that a stop to this pilfering was put next year
(law of 2 Prairial, An V), and the preceding law was abrogated;
but then the village Communities were simply abolished, and
cantonal councils were introduced instead. Only seven years later
(9 Prairial, An XII), i.e. in 1801, the village communities were
reintroduced, but not until after having been deprived of all
their rights, the mayor and syndics being nominated by the
Government in the 36,000 communes of France! This system was
maintained till after the revolution of 1830, when elected
communal councils were reintroduced under the law of 1787. As to
the communal lands, they were again seized upon by the State in
1813, plundered as such, and only partly restored to the communes
in 1816. See the classical collection of French laws, by Dalloz,
R?pertoire de Jurisprudence; also the works of Doniol, Dareste,
Bonnem?re, Babeau, and many others.
8 This procedure is so absurd that one would not believe it
possible if the fifty-two different acts were not enumerated in
full by a quite authoritative writer in the Journal des
Economistes (1893, April, p. 94), and several similar examples
were not given by the same author.
9 Dr. Ochenkowski, Englands wirthschaftliche Entwickelung im
Ausgange des Mittelalters (Jena, 1879), pp. 35 seq., where the
whole question is discussed with full knowledge of the texts.
10 Nasse, Ueber die mittelalterliche Feldgemeinschaft und die
Einhegungen des XVI. Jahrhunderts in England (Bonn, 1869), pp. 4,
5; Vinogradov, Villainage in England (Oxford, 1892).
11 Seebohm, The English Village Community, 3rd edition, 1884,
pp. 13-15.
12 "An examination into the details of an Enclosure Act will
make clear the point that the system as above described [communal
ownership] is the system which it was the object of the Enclosure
Act to remove" (Seebohm, l.c. p. 13). And further on, "They were
generally drawn in the same form, commencing with the recital
that the open and common fields lie dispersed in small pieces,
intermixed with each other and inconveniently situated; that
divers persons own parts of them, and are entitled to rights of
common on them... and that it is desired that they may be divided
and enclosed, a specific share being let out and allowed to each
owner" (p. 14). Porter's list contained 3867 such Acts, of which
the greatest numbers fall upon the decades of 1770-1780 and
1800-1820, as in France.
13 In Switzerland we see a number of communes, ruined by wars,
which have sold part of their lands, and now endeavour to buy
them back.
14 A. Buchenberger, "Agrarwesen und Agrarpolitik," in A.
Wagner's Handbuch der politischen Oekonomie, 1892, Band i. pp.
280 seq.
15 G.L. Gomme, "The Village Community, with special reference to
its Origin and Forms of Survival in Great Britain" (Contemporary
Science Series), London, 1890, pp. 141-143; also his Primitive
Folkmoots (London, 1880), pp. 98 seq.
16 "In almost all parts of the country, in the Midland and
Eastern counties particularly, but also in the west -- in
Wiltshire, for example -- in the south, as in Surrey, in the
north, as in Yorkshire, -- there are extensive open and common
fields. Out of 316 parishes of Northamptonshire 89 are in this
condition; more than 100 in Oxfordshire; about 50,000 acres in
Warwickshire; in Berkshire half the county; more than half of
Wiltshire; in Huntingdonshire out of a total area of 240,000
acres 130,000 were commonable meadows, commons, and fields"
(Marshall, quoted in Sir Henry Maine's Village Communities in the
East and West, New York edition, 1876, pp. 88, 89).
17 Ibid. p. 88; also Fifth Lecture. The wide extension of
"commons" in Surrey, even now, is well known.
18 In quite a number of books dealing with English country life
which I have consulted I have found charming descriptions of
country scenery and the like, but almost nothing about the daily
life and customs of the labourers.
19 In Switzerland the peasants in the open land also fell under
the dominion of lords, and large parts of their estates were
appropriated by the lords in the sixteenth and seventeenth
centuries. (See, for instance, Dr. A. Miaskowski, in Schmoller's
Forschungen, Bd. ii. 1879, Pp. 12 seq.) But the peasant war in
Switzerland did not end in such a crushing defeat of the peasants
as it did in other countries, and a great deal of the communal
rights and lands was retained. The self-government of the
communes is, in fact, the very foundation of the Swiss liberties.
20 Miaskowski, in SchmolLer's Forschungen, Bd. ii. 1879, p. 15.
21 See on this subject a series of works, summed up in one of
the excellent and suggestive chapters (not yet translated into
English) which K. B?cher has added to the German translation of
Laveleye's Primitive Ownership. Also Meitzen, "Das Agrar- und
Forst-Wesen, die Allmenden und die Landgemeinden der Deutschen
Schweiz," in Jahrbuch f?r Staatswissenschaft, 1880, iv. (analysis
of Miaskowsky's works); O'Brien, "Notes in a Swiss village," in
Macmillan's Magazine, October 1885.
22 The wedding gifts, which often substantially contribute in
this country to the comfort of the young households, are
evidently a remainder of the communal habits.
23 The communes own, 4,554,1O0 acres of woods out of 24,813,0O0
in the whole territory, and 6,936,300 acres of natural meadows
out of 11,394,000 acres in France. The remaining 2,000,000 acres
are fields, orchards, and so on.
24 In Caucasia they even do better among the Georgians. As the
meal costs, and a poor man cannot afford to give it, a sheep is
bought by those same neighbours who come to aid in the work.
25 Alfred Baudrillart, in H. Baudrillart's Les Populations
Rurales de la France, 3rd series (Paris, 1893), p. 479.
26 The Journal des Economistes (August 1892, May and August
1893) has lately given some of the results of analyses made at
the agricultural laboratories at Ghent and at Paris. The extent
of falsification is simply incredible; so also the devices of the
"honest traders." In certain seeds of grass there was 32 per
cent. of gains of sand, coloured so as to Receive even an
experienced eye; other samples contained from 52 to 22 per cent.
only of pure seed, the remainder being weeds. Seeds of vetch
contained 11 per cent. of a poisonous grass (nielle); a flour for
cattle-fattening contained 36 per cent. of sulphates; and so on
ad infinitum.
27 A. Baudrillart, l.c. p. 309. Originally one grower would
undertake to supply water, and several others would agee to make
use of it. "What especially characterises such associations," A.
Baudrillart remarks, "is that no sort of written agreement is
concluded. All is arranged in words. There was, however, not one
single case of difficulties having arisen between the parties."
28 A. Baudrillart, l.c. pp. 300, 341, etc. M. Terssac, president
of the St. Gironnais syndicate (Ari?ge), wrote to my friend in
substance as follows: -- "For the exhibition of Toulouse our
association has grouped the owners of cattle which seemed to us
worth exhibiting. The society undertook to pay one-half of the
travelling and exhibition expenses; one-fourth was paid by each
owner, and the remaining fourth by those exhibitors who had got
prizes. The result was that many took part in the exhibition who
never would have done it otherwise. Those who got the highest
awards (350 francs) have contributed 10 per cent. of their
prizes, while those who have got no prize have only spent 6 to 7
francs each."
29 In W?rttemberg 1,629 communes out of 1,910 have communal
property. They owned in 1863 over 1,000,000 acres of land. In
Baden 1,256 communes out of 1,582 have communal land; in
1884-1888 they held 121,500 acres of fields in communal culture,
and 675,000 acres of forests, i.e. 46 per cent. of the total area
under woods. In Saxony 39 per cent. of the total area is in
communal ownership (Schmoller's Jahrbuch, 1886, p. 359). In
Hohenzollern nearly two-thirds of all meadow land, and in
Hohenzollern-Hechingen 41 per cent. of all landed property, are
owned by the village communities (Buchenberger, Agrarwesen, vol.
i. p. 300).
30 See K. B?cher, who, in a special chapter added to Laveleye's
Ureigenthum, has collected all information relative to the
village community in Germany.
31 K. B?cher, ibid. pp. 89, 90.
32 For this legislation and the numerous obstacles which were
put in the way, in the shape of red-tapeism and supervision, see
Buchenberger's Agrarwesen und Agrarpolitik, Bd. ii. pp. 342-363,
and p. 506, note.
33 Buchenberger, l.c. Bd. ii. p. 510. The General Union of
Agricultural Co-operation comprises an aggregate of 1,679
societies. In Silesia an aggregate of 32,000 acres of land has
been lately drained by 73 associations; 454,800 acres in Prussia
by 516 associations; in Bavaria there are 1,715 drainage and
irrigation unions.
34 See Appendix XII.
35 For the Balkan peninsula see Laveleye's Propri?t? Primitive.
36 The facts concerning the village community, contained in
nearly a hundred volumes (out of 450) of these inquests, have
been classified and summed up in an excellent Russian work by
"V.V." The Peasant Community (Krestianskaya Obschina), St.
Petersburg, 1892, which, apart from its theoretical value, is a
rich compendium of data relative to this subject. The above
inquests have also given origin to an immense literature, in
which the modern village-community question for the first time
emerges from the domain of generalities and is put on the solid
basis of reliable and sufficiently detailed facts.
37 The redemption had to be paid by annuities for forty-nine
years. As years went, and the greatest part of it was paid, it
became easier and easier to redeem the smaller remaining part of
it, and, as each allotment could be redeemed individually,
advantage was taken of this disposition by traders, who bought
land for half its value from the ruined peasants. A law was
consequently passed to put a stop to such sales.
38 Mr. V.V., in his Peasant Community, has grouped together all
facts relative to this movement. About the rapid agricultural
development of South Russia and the spread of machinery English
readers will find information in the Consular Reports (Odessa,
39 In some instances they proceeded with great caution. In one
village they began by putting together all meadow land, but only
a small portion of the fields (about five acres per soul) was
rendered communal; the remainder continued to be owned
individually. Later on, in 1862-1864, the system was extended,
but only in 1884 was communal possession introduced in full. --
V.V.'s Peasant Community, pp. 1-14.
40 On the Mennonite village community see A. Klaus, Our Colonies
(Nashi Kolonii), St. Petersburg, 1869.
41 Such communal cultures are known to exist in 159 villages out
of 195 in the Ostrogozhsk district; in 150 out of 187 in
Slavyanoserbsk; in 107 village communities in Alexandrovsk, 93 in
Nikolayevsk, 35 in Elisabethgrad. In a German colony the communal
culture is made for repaying a communal debt. All join in the
work, although the debt was contracted by 94 householders out of
42 Lists of such works which came under the notice of the
zemstvo statisticians will be found in V.V.'s Peasant Community,
pp. 459-600.
43 In the government of Moscow the experiment was usually made
on the field which was reserved for the above-mentioned communal
44 Several instances of such and similar improvements were given
in the Official Messenger, 1894, Nos. 256-258. Associations
between "horseless" peasants begin to appear also in South
Russia. Another extremely interesting fact is the sudden
development in Southern West Siberia of very numerous
co-operative creameries for making butter. Hundreds of them
spread in Tobolsk and Tomsk, without any one knowing wherefrom
the initiative of the movement came. It came from the Danish
co-operators, who used to export their own butter of higher
quality, and to buy butter of a lower quality for their own use
in Siberia. After a several years' intercourse, they introduced
creameries there. Now, a great export trade has grown out of
their endeavours.



11 years 11 months ago

In reply to by

Submitted by bidorbuy on June 26, 2012

There wouldn't have been any need of "mutual-aid" Institutions, if only we had received a good education, based on mutual tolerance and understanding.

8. Mutual aid amongst ourselves

Submitted by libcom on January 31, 2006

Labour-unions grown after the destruction of the guilds by the
State. -- Their struggles. -- Mutual Aid in strikes. --
Co-operation. -- Free associations for various purposes. --
Self-sacrifice. -- Countless societies for combined action under
all possible aspects. -- Mutual Aid in slum-life. -- Personal

When we examine the every-day life of the rural populations

of Europe, we find that, notwithstanding all that has been done

in modern States for the destruction of the village community,

the life of the peasants remains honeycombed with habits and

customs of mutual aid and support; that important vestiges of the

communal possession of the soil are still retained; and that, as

soon as the legal obstacles to rural association were lately

removed, a network of free unions for all sorts of economical

purposes rapidly spread among the peasants -- the tendency of

this young movement being to reconstitute some sort of union

similar to the village community of old. Such being the

conclusions arrived at in the preceding chapter, we have now to

consider, what institutions for mutual support can be found at

the present time amongst the industrial populations.

For the last three hundred years, the conditions for the

growth of such institutions have been as unfavourable in the

towns as they have been in the villages. It is well known,

indeed, that when the medieval cities were subdued in the

sixteenth century by growing military States, all institutions

which kept the artisans, the masters, and the merchants together

in the guilds and the cities were violently destroyed. The

self-government and the self-jurisdiction of both, the guild and

the city were abolished; the oath of allegiance between

guild-brothers became an act of felony towards the State; the

properties of the guilds were confiscated in the same way as the

lands of the village communities; and the inner and technical

organization of each trade was taken in hand by the State. Laws,

gradually growing in severity, were passed to prevent artisans

from combining in any way. For a time, some shadows of the old

guilds were tolerated: merchants' guilds were allowed to exist

under the condition of freely granting subsidies to the kings,

and some artisan guilds were kept in existence as organs of

administration. Some of them still drag on their meaningless

existence. But what formerly was the vital force of medieval life

and industry has long since disappeared under the crushing weight

of the centralized State.

In Great Britain, which may be taken as the best illustration

of the industrial policy of the modern States, we see the

Parliament beginning the destruction of the guilds as early as

the fifteenth century; but it was especially in the next century

that decisive measures were taken. Henry the Eighth not only

ruined the organization of the guilds, but also confiscated their

properties, with even less excuse and manners, as Toulmin Smith

wrote, than he had produced for confiscating the estates of the

monasteries.1 Edward the Sixth completed his work,2 and

already in the second part of the sixteenth century we find the

Parliament settling all the disputes between craftsmen and

merchants, which formerly were settled in each city separately.

The Parliament and the king not only legislated in all such

contests, but, keeping in view the interests of the Crown in the

exports, they soon began to determine the number of apprentices

in each trade and minutely to regulate the very technics of each

fabrication -- the weights of the stuffs, the number of threads

in the yard of cloth, and the like. With little success, it must

be said; because contests and technical difficulties which were

arranged for centuries in succession by agreement between

closely-interdependent guilds and federated cities lay entirely

beyond the powers of the centralized State. The continual

interference of its officials paralyzed the trades; bringing most

of them to a complete decay; and the last century economists,

when they rose against the State regulation of industries, only

ventilated a widely-felt discontent. The abolition of that

interference by the French Revolution was greeted as an act of

liberation, and the example of France was soon followed


With the regulation of wages the State had no better success.

In the medieval cities, when the distinction between masters and

apprentices or journeymen became more and more apparent in the

fifteenth century, unions of apprentices (Gesellenverb?nde),

occasionally assuming an international character, were opposed to

the unions of masters and merchants. Now it was the State which

undertook to settle their griefs, and under the Elizabethan

Statute of 1563 the Justices of Peace had to settle the wages, so

as to guarantee a "convenient" livelihood to journeymen and

apprentices. The Justices, however, proved helpless to conciliate

the conflicting interests, and still less to compel the masters

to obey their decisions. The law gradually became a dead letter,

and was repealed by the end of the eighteenth century. But while

the State thus abandoned the function of regulating wages, it

continued severely to prohibit all combinations which were

entered upon by journeymen and workers in order to raise their

wages, or to keep them at a certain level. All through the

eighteenth century it legislated against the workers' unions, and

in 1799 it finally prohibited all sorts of combinations, under

the menace of severe punishments. In fact, the British Parliament

only followed in this case the example of the French

Revolutionary Convention, which had issued a draconic law against

coalitions of workers-coalitions between a number of citizens

being considered as attempts against the sovereignty of the

State, which was supposed equally to protect all its subjects.

The work of destruction of the medieval unions was thus

completed. Both in the town and in the village the State reigned

over loose aggregations of individuals, and was ready to prevent

by the most stringent measures the reconstitution of any sort of

separate unions among them. These were, then, the conditions

under which the mutual-aid tendency had to make its way in the

nineteenth century.

Need it be said that no such measures could destroy that

tendency? Throughout the eighteenth century, the workers' unions

were continually reconstituted.3 Nor were they stopped by the

cruel prosecutions which took place under the laws of 1797 and

1799. Every flaw in supervision, every delay of the masters in

denouncing the unions was taken advantage of. Under the cover of

friendly societies, burial clubs, or secret brotherhoods, the

unions spread in the textile industries, among the Sheffield

cutlers, the miners, and vigorous federal organizations were

formed to support the branches during strikes and

prosecutions.4 The repeal of the Combination Laws in 1825 gave

a new impulse to the movement. Unions and national federations

were formed in all trades.5 and when Robert Owen started his

Grand National Consolidated Trades' Union, it mustered half a

million members in a few months. True that this period of

relative liberty did not last long. Prosecution began anew in the

thirties, and the well-known ferocious condemnations of 1832-1844

followed. The Grand National Union was disbanded, and all over

the country, both the private employers and the Government in its

own workshops began to compel the workers to resign all

connection with unions, and to sign "the Document" to that

effect. Unionists were prosecuted wholesale under the Master and

Servant Act -- workers being summarily arrested and condemned

upon a mere complaint of misbehaviour lodged by the master.6

Strikes were suppressed in an autocratic way, and the most

astounding condemnations took place for merely having announced a

strike or acted as a delegate in it -- to say nothing of the

military suppression of strike riots, nor of the condemnations

which followed the frequent outbursts of acts of violence. To

practise mutual support under such circumstances was anything but

an easy task. And yet, notwithstanding all obstacles, of which

our own generation hardly can have an idea, the revival of the

unions began again in 1841, and the amalgamation of the workers

has been steadily continued since. After a long fight, which

lasted for over a hundred years, the right of combining together

was conquered, and at the present time nearly one-fourth part of

the regularly-employed workers, i.e. about 1,500,000, belong to

trade unions.7

As to the other European States, sufficient to say that up to

a very recent date, all sorts of unions were prosecuted as

conspiracies; and that nevertheless they exist everywhere, even

though they must often take the form of secret societies; while

the extension and the force of labour organizations, and

especially of the Knights of Labour, in the United States and in

Belgium, have been sufficiently illustrated by strikes in the

nineties. It must, however, be borne in mind that, prosecution

apart, the mere fact of belonging to a labour union implies

considerable sacrifices in money, in time, and in unpaid work,

and continually implies the risk of losing employment for the

mere fact of being a unionist.8 There is, moreover, the

strike, which a unionist has continually to face; and the grim

reality of a strike is, that the limited credit of a worker's

family at the baker's and the pawnbroker's is soon exhausted, the

strike-pay goes not far even for food, and hunger is soon written

on the children's faces. For one who lives in close contact with

workers, a protracted strike is the most heartrending sight;

while what a strike meant forty years ago in this country, and

still means in all but the wealthiest parts of the continent, can

easily be conceived. Continually, even now, strikes will end with

the total ruin and the forced emigration of whole populations,

while the shooting down of strikers on the slightest provocation,

or even without any provocation,9 is quite habitual still on

the continent.

And yet, every year there are thousands of strikes and

lock-outs in Europe and America -- the most severe and protracted

contests being, as a rule, the so-called "sympathy strikes,"

which are entered upon to support locked-out comrades or to

maintain the rights of the unions. And while a portion of the

Press is prone to explain strikes by "intimidation," those who

have lived among strikers speak with admiration of the mutual aid

and support which are constantly practised by them. Every one has

heard of the colossal amount of work which was done by volunteer

workers for organizing relief during the London dock-labourers'

strike; of the miners who, after having themselves been idle for

many weeks, paid a levy of four shillings a week to the strike

fund when they resumed work; of the miner widow who, during the

Yorkshire labour war of 1894, brought her husband's life-savings

to the strike-fund; of the last loaf of bread being always shared

with neighbours; of the Radstock miners, favoured with larger

kitchen-gardens, who invited four hundred Bristol miners to take

their share of cabbage and potatoes, and so on. All newspaper

correspondents, during the great strike of miners in Yorkshire in

1894, knew heaps of such facts, although not all of them could

report such "irrelevant" matters to their respective papers.10

Unionism is not, however, the only form in which the worker's

need of mutual support finds its expression. There are, besides,

the political associations, whose activity many workers consider

as more conducive to general welfare than the trade-unions,

limited as they are now in their purposes. Of course the mere

fact of belonging to a political body cannot be taken as a

manifestation of the mutual-aid tendency. We all know that

politics are the field in which the purely egotistic elements of

society enter into the most entangled combinations with

altruistic aspirations. But every experienced politician knows

that all great political movements were fought upon large and

often distant issues, and that those of them were the strongest

which provoked most disinterested enthusiasm. All great

historical movements have had this character, and for our own

generation Socialism stands in that case. "Paid agitators" is, no

doubt, the favourite refrain of those who know nothing about it.

The truth, however, is that -- to speak only of what I know

personally -- if I had kept a diary for the last twenty-four

years and inscribed in it all the devotion and self-sacrifice

which I came across in the Socialist movement, the reader of such

a diary would have had the word "heroism" constantly on his lips.

But the men I would have spoken of were not heroes; they were

average men, inspired by a grand idea. Every Socialist newspaper

-- and there are hundreds of them in Europe alone -- has the same

history of years of sacrifice without any hope of reward, and, in

the overwhelming majority of cases, even without any personal

ambition. I have seen families living without knowing what would

be their food to-morrow, the husband boycotted all round in his

little town for his part in the paper, and the wife supporting

the family by sewing, and such a situation lasting for years,

until the family would retire, without a word of reproach, simply

saying: "Continue; we can hold on no more!" I have seen men,

dying from consumption, and knowing it, and yet knocking about in

snow and fog to prepare meetings, speaking at meetings within a

few weeks from death, and only then retiring to the hospital with

the words: "Now, friends, I am done; the doctors say I have but a

few weeks to live. Tell the comrades that I shall be happy if

they come to see me." I have seen facts which would be described

as "idealization" if I told them in this place; and the very

names of these men, hardly known outside a narrow circle of

friends, will soon be forgotten when the friends, too, have

passed away. In fact, I don't know myself which most to admire,

the unbounded devotion of these few, or the sum total of petty

acts of devotion of the great number. Every quire of a penny

paper sold, every meeting, every hundred votes which are won at a

Socialist election, represent an amount of energy and sacrifices

of which no outsider has the faintest idea. And what is now done

by Socialists has been done in every popular and advanced party,

political and religious, in the past. All past progress has been

promoted by like men and by a like devotion.

Co-operation, especially in Britain, is often described as

"joint-stock individualism"; and such as it is now, it

undoubtedly tends to breed a co-operative egotism, not only

towards the community at large, but also among the co-operators

themselves. It is, nevertheless, certain that at its origin the

movement had an essentially mutual-aid character. Even now, its

most ardent promoters are persuaded that co-operation leads

mankind to a higher harmonic stage of economical relations, and

it is not possible to stay in some of the strongholds of

co-operation in the North without realizing that the great number

of the rank and file hold the same opinion. Most of them would

lose interest in the movement if that faith were gone; and it

must be owned that within the last few years broader ideals of

general welfare and of the producers' solidarity have begun to be

current among the co-operators. There is undoubtedly now a

tendency towards establishing better relations between the owners

of the co-operative workshops and the workers.

The importance of co-operation in this country, in Holland

and in Denmark is well known; while in Germany, and especially on

the Rhine, the co-operative societies are already an important

factor of industrial life.11 It is, however, Russia which

offers perhaps the best field for the study of cooperation under

an infinite variety of aspects. In Russia, it is a natural

growth, an inheritance from the middle ages; and while a formally

established co-operative society would have to cope with many

legal difficulties and official suspicion, the informal

co-operation -- the art?l -- makes the very substance of Russian

peasant life. The history of "the making of Russia," and of the

colonization of Siberia, is a history of the hunting and trading

art?ls or guilds, followed by village communities, and at the

present time we find the art?l everywhere; among each group of

ten to fifty peasants who come from the same village to work at a

factory, in all the building trades, among fishermen and hunters,

among convicts on their way to and in Siberia, among railway

porters, Exchange messengers, Customs House labourers, everywhere

in the village industries, which give occupation to 7,000,000 men

-- from top to bottom of the working world, permanent and

temporary, for production and consumption under all possible

aspects. Until now, many of the fishing-grounds on the

tributaries of the Caspian Sea are held by immense art?ls, the

Ural river belonging to the whole of the Ural Cossacks, who allot

and re-allot the fishing-grounds -- perhaps the richest in the

world -- among the villages, without any interference of the

authorities. Fishing is always made by art?ls in the Ural, the

Volga, and all the lakes of Northern Russia. Besides these

permanent organizations, there are the simply countless temporary

art?ls, constituted for each special purpose. When ten or twenty

peasants come from some locality to a big town, to work as

weavers, carpenters, masons, boat-builders, and so on, they

always constitute an art?l. They hire rooms, hire a cook (very

often the wife of one of them acts in this capacity), elect an

elder, and take their meals in common, each one paying his share

for food and lodging to the art?l. A party of convicts on its way

to Siberia always does the same, and its elected elder is the

officially-recognized intermediary between the convicts and the

military chief of the party. In the hard-labour prisons they have

the same organization. The railway porters, the messengers at the

Exchange, the workers at the Custom House, the town messengers in

the capitals, who are collectively responsible for each member,

enjoy such a reputation that any amount of money or bank-notes is

trusted to the art?l-member by the merchants. In the building

trades, art?ls of from 10 to 200 members are formed; and the

serious builders and railway contractors always prefer to deal

with an art?l than with separately-hired workers. The last

attempts of the Ministry of War to deal directly with productive

art?ls, formed ad hoc in the domestic trades, and to give them

orders for boots and all sorts of brass and iron goods, are

described as most satisfactory; while the renting of a Crown iron

work, (Votkinsk) to an art?l of workers, which took place seven

or eight years ago, has been a decided success.

We can thus see in Russia how the old medieval institution,

having not been interfered with by the State (in its informal

manifestations), has fully survived until now, and takes the

greatest variety of forms in accordance with the requirements of

modern industry and commerce. As to the Balkan peninsula, the

Turkish Empire and Caucasia, the old guilds are maintained there

in full. The esnafs of Servia have fully preserved their medieval

character; they include both masters and journeymen, regulate the

trades, and are institutions for mutual support in labour and

sickness;12 while the amkari of Caucasia, and especially at

Tiflis, add to these functions a considerable influence in

municipal life.13

In connection with co-operation, I ought perhaps to mention

also the friendly societies, the unities of oddfellows, the

village and town clubs organized for meeting the doctors' bills,

the dress and burial clubs, the small clubs very common among

factory girls, to which they contribute a few pence every week,

and afterwards draw by lot the sum of one pound, which can at

least be used for some substantial purchase, and many others. A

not inconsiderable amount of sociable or jovial spirit is alive

in all such societies and clubs, even though the "credit and

debit" of each member are closely watched over. But there are so

many associations based on the readiness to sacrifice time,

health, and life if required, that we can produce numbers of

illustrations of the best forms of mutual support.

The Lifeboat Association in this country, and similar

institutions on the Continent, must be mentioned in the first

place. The former has now over three hundred boats along the

coasts of these isles, and it would have twice as many were it

not for the poverty of the fisher men, who cannot afford to buy

lifeboats. The crews consist, however, of volunteers, whose

readiness to sacrifice their lives for the rescue of absolute

strangers to them is put every year to a severe test; every

winter the loss of several of the bravest among them stands on

record. And if we ask these men what moves them to risk their

lives, even when there is no reasonable chance of success, their

answer is something on the following lines. A fearful snowstorm,

blowing across the Channel, raged on the flat, sandy coast of a

tiny village in Kent, and a small smack, laden with oranges,

stranded on the sands near by. In these shallow waters only a

flat-bottomed lifeboat of a simplified type can be kept, and to

launch it during such a storm was to face an almost certain

disaster. And yet the men went out, fought for hours against the

wind, and the boat capsized twice. One man was drowned, the

others were cast ashore. One of these last, a refined coastguard,

was found next morning, badly bruised and half frozen in the

snow. I asked him, how they came to make that desperate attempt?"

I don't know myself," was his reply." There was the wreck; all

the people from the village stood on the beach, and all said it

would be foolish to go out; we never should work through the

surf. We saw five or six men clinging to the mast, making

desperate signals. We all felt that something must be done, but

what could we do? One hour passed, two hours, and we all stood

there. We all felt most uncomfortable. Then, all of a sudden,

through the storm, it seemed to us as if we heard their cries --

they had a boy with them. We could not stand that any longer. All

at once we said, "We must go!" The women said so too; they would

have treated us as cowards if we had not gone, although next day

they said we had been fools to go. As one man, we rushed to the

boat, and went. The boat capsized, but we took hold of it. The

worst was to see poor drowning by the side of the boat, and we

could do nothing to save him. Then came a fearful wave, the boat

capsized again, and we were cast ashore. The men were still

rescued by the D. boat, ours was caught miles away. I was found

next morning in the snow."

The same feeling moved also the miners of the Rhonda Valley,

when they worked for the rescue of their comrades from the

inundated mine. They had pierced through thirty-two yards of coal

in order to reach their entombed comrades; but when only three

yards more remained to be pierced, fire-damp enveloped them. The

lamps went out, and the rescue-men retired. To work in such

conditions was to risk being blown up at every moment. But the

raps of the entombed miners were still heard, the men were still

alive and appealed for help, and several miners volunteered to

work at any risk; and as they went down the mine, their wives had

only silent tears to follow them -- not one word to stop them.

There is the gist of human psychology. Unless men are

maddened in the battlefield, they "cannot stand it" to hear

appeals for help, and not to respond to them. The hero goes; and

what the hero does, all feel that they ought to have done as

well. The sophisms of the brain cannot resist the mutual-aid

feeling, because this feeling has been nurtured by thousands of

years of human social life and hundreds of thousands of years of

pre-human life in societies.

"But what about those men who were drowned in the Serpentine

in the presence of a crowd, out of which no one moved for their

rescue?" it may be asked. "What about the child which fell into

the Regent's Park Canal -- also in the presence of a holiday

crowd -- and was only saved through the presence of mind of a

maid who let out a Newfoundland dog to the rescue?" The answer is

plain enough. Man is a result of both his inherited instincts and

his education. Among the miners and the seamen, their common

occupations and their every-day contact with one another create a

feeling of solidarity, while the surrounding dangers maintain

courage and pluck. In the cities, on the contrary, the absence of

common interest nurtures indifference, while courage and pluck,

which seldom find their opportunities, disappear, or take another

direction. Moreover, the tradition of the hero of the mine and

the sea lives in the miners' and fishermen's villages, adorned

with a poetical halo. But what are the traditions of a motley

London crowd? The only tradition they might have in common ought

to be created by literature, but a literature which would

correspond to the village epics hardly exists. The clergy are so

anxious to prove that all that comes from human nature is sin,

and that all good in man has a supernatural origin, that they

mostly ignore the facts which cannot be produced as an example of

higher inspiration or grace, coming from above. And as to the

lay-writers, their attention is chiefly directed towards one sort

of heroism, the heroism which promotes the idea of the State.

Therefore, they admire the Roman hero, or the soldier in the

battle, while they pass by the fisherman's heroism, hardly paying

attention to it. The poet and the painter might, of course, be

taken by the beauty of the human heart in itself; but both seldom

know the life of the poorer classes, and while they can sing or

paint the Roman or the military hero in conventional

surroundings, they can neither sing nor paint impressively the

hero who acts in those modest surroundings which they ignore. If

they venture to do so, they produce a mere piece of


The countless societies, clubs, and alliances, for the

enjoyment of life, for study and research, for education, and so

on, which have lately grown up in such numbers that it would

require many years to simply tabulate them, are another

manifestation of the same everworking tendency for association

and mutual support. Some of them, like the broods of young birds

of different species which come together in the autumn, are

entirely given to share in common the joys of life. Every village

in this country, in Switzerland, Germany, and so on, has its

cricket, football, tennis, nine-pins, pigeon, musical or singing

clubs. Other societies are much more numerous, and some of them,

like the Cyclists' Alliance, have suddenly taken a formidable

development. Although the members of this alliance have nothing

in common but the love of cycling, there is already among them a

sort of freemasonry for mutual help, especially in the remote

nooks and corners which are not flooded by cyclists; they look

upon the "C.A.C." -- the Cyclists' Alliance Club -- in a village

as a sort of home; and at the yearly Cyclists' Camp many a

standing friendship has been established. The Kegelbr?der, the

Brothers of the Nine Pins, in Germany, are a similar association;

so also the Gymnasts' Societies (300,000 members in Germany), the

informal brotherhood of paddlers in France, the yacht clubs, and

so on. Such associations certainly do not alter the economical

stratification of society, but, especially in the small towns,

they contribute to smooth social distinctions, and as they all

tend to join in large national and international federations,

they certainly aid the growth of personal friendly intercourse

between all sorts of men scattered in different parts of the


The Alpine Clubs, the Jagdschutzverein in Germany, which has

over 100,000 members -- hunters, educated foresters, zoologists,

and simple lovers of Nature -- and the International

Ornithological Society, which includes zoologists, breeders, and

simple peasants in Germany, have the same character. Not only

have they done in a few years a large amount of very useful work,

which large associations alone could do properly (maps, refuge

huts, mountain roads; studies of animal life, of noxious insects,

of migrations of birds, and so on), but they create new bonds

between men. Two Alpinists of different nationalities who meet in

a refuge hut in the Caucasus, or the professor and the peasant

ornithologist who stay in the same house, are no more strangers

to each other; while the Uncle Toby's Society at Newcastle, which

has already induced over 260,000 boys and girls never to destroy

birds' nests and to be kind to all animals, has certainly done

more for the development of human feelings and of taste in

natural science than lots of moralists and most of our schools.

We cannot omit, even in this rapid review, the thousands of

scientific, literary, artistic, and educational societies. Up

till now, the scientific bodies, closely controlled and often

subsidized by the State, have generally moved in a very narrow

circle, and they often came to be looked upon as mere openings

for getting State appointments, while the very narrowness of

their circles undoubtedly bred petty jealousies. Still it is a

fact that the distinctions of birth, political parties and creeds

are smoothed to some extent by such associations; while in the

smaller and remote towns the scientific, geographical, or musical

societies, especially those of them which appeal to a larger

circle of amateurs, become small centres of intellectual life, a

sort of link between the little spot and the wide world, and a

place where men of very different conditions meet on a footing of

equality. To fully appreciate the value of such centres, one

ought to know them, say, in Siberia. As to the countless

educational societies which only now begin to break down the

State's and the Church's monopoly in education, they are sure to

become before long the leading power in that branch. To the

"Froebel Unions" we already owe the Kindergarten system; and to a

number of formal and informal educational associations we owe the

high standard of women's education in Russia, although all the

time these societies and groups had to act in strong opposition

to a powerful government.15 As to the various pedagogical

societies in Germany, it is well known that they have done the

best part in the working out of the modern methods of teaching

science in popular schools. In such associations the teacher

finds also his best support. How miserable the overworked and

under-paid village teacher would have been without their


All these associations, societies, brotherhoods, alliances,

institutes, and so on, which must now be counted by the ten

thousand in Europe alone, and each of which represents an immense

amount of voluntary, unambitious, and unpaid or underpaid work --

what are they but so many manifestations, under an infinite

variety of aspects, of the same ever-living tendency of man

towards mutual aid and support? For nearly three centuries men

were prevented from joining hands even for literary, artistic,

and educational purposes. Societies could only be formed under

the protection of the State, or the Church, or as secret

brotherhoods, like free-masonry. But now that the resistance has

been broken, they swarm in all directions, they extend over all

multifarious branches of human activity, they become

international, and they undoubtedly contribute, to an extent

which cannot yet be fully appreciated, to break down the screens

erected by States between different nationalities.

Notwithstanding the jealousies which are bred by commercial

competition, and the provocations to hatred which are sounded by

the ghosts of a decaying past, there is a conscience of

international solidarity which is growing both among the leading

spirits of the world and the masses of the workers, since they

also have conquered the right of international intercourse; and

in the preventing of a European war during the last quarter of a

century, this spirit has undoubtedly had its share.

The religious charitable associations, which again represent

a whole world, certainly must be mentioned in this place. There

is not the slightest doubt that the great bulk of their members

are moved by the same mutual-aid feelings which are common to all

mankind. Unhappily the religious teachers of men prefer to

ascribe to such feelings a supernatural origin. Many of them

pretend that man does not consciously obey the mutual-aid

inspiration so long as he has not been enlightened by the

teachings of the special religion which they represent, and, with

St. Augustin, most of them do not recognize such feelings in the

"pagan savage." Moreover, while early Christianity, like all

other religions, was an appeal to the broadly human feelings of

mutual aid and sympathy, the Christian Church has aided the State

in wrecking all standing institutions of mutual aid and support

which were anterior to it, or developed outside of it; and,

instead of the mutual aid which every savage considers as due to

his kinsman, it has preached charity which bears a character of

inspiration from above, and, accordingly, implies a certain

superiority of the giver upon the receiver. With this limitation,

and without any intention to give offence to those who consider

themselves as a body elect when they accomplish acts simply

humane, we certainly may consider the immense numbers of

religious charitable associations as an outcome of the same

mutual-aid tendency.

All these facts show that a reckless prosecution of personal

interests, with no regard to other people's needs, is not the

only characteristic of modern life. By the side of this current

which so proudly claims leadership in human affairs, we perceive

a hard struggle sustained by both the rural and industrial

populations in order to reintroduce standing institutions of

mutual aid and support; and we discover, in all classes of

society, a widely-spread movement towards the establishment of an

infinite variety of more or less permanent institutions for the

same purpose. But when we pass from public life to the private

life of the modern individual, we discover another extremely wide

world of mutual aid and support, which only passes unnoticed by

most sociologists because it is limited to the narrow circle of

the family and personal friendship.17

Under the present social system, all bonds of union among the

inhabitants of the same street or neighbourhood have been

dissolved. In the richer parts of the large towns, people live

without knowing who are their next-door neighbours. But in the

crowded lanes people know each other perfectly, and are

continually brought into mutual contact. Of course, petty

quarrels go their course, in the lanes as elsewhere; but

groupings in accordance with personal affinities grow up, and

within their circle mutual aid is practised to an extent of which

the richer classes have no idea. If we take, for instance, the

children of a poor neighbourhood who play in a street or a

churchyard, or on a green, we notice at once that a close union

exists among them, notwithstanding the temporary fights, and that

that union protects them from all sorts of misfortunes. As soon

as a mite bends inquisitively over the opening of a drain --

"Don't stop there," another mite shouts out, "fever sits in the

hole!" "Don't climb over that wall, the train will kill you if

you tumble down! Don't come near to the ditch! Don't eat those

berries -- poison! you will die." Such are the first teachings

imparted to the urchin when he joins his mates out-doors. How

many of the children whose play-grounds are the pavements around

"model workers' dwellings," or the quays and bridges of the

canals, would be crushed to death by the carts or drowned in the

muddy waters, were it not for that sort of mutual support. And

when a fair Jack has made a slip into the unprotected ditch at

the back of the milkman's yard, or a cherry-cheeked Lizzie has,

after all, tumbled down into the canal, the young brood raises

such cries that all the neighbourhood is on the alert and rushes

to the rescue.

Then comes in the alliance of the mothers. "You could not

imagine" (a lady-doctor who lives in a poor neighbourhood told me

lately) "how much they help each other. If a woman has prepared

nothing, or could prepare nothing, for the baby which she

expected -- and how often that happens! -- all the neighbours

bring something for the new-comer. One of the neighbours always

takes care of the children, and some other always drops in to

take care of the household, so long as the mother is in bed."

This habit is general. It is mentioned by all those who have

lived among the poor. In a thousand small ways the mothers

support each other and bestow their care upon children that are

not their own. Some training -- good or bad, let them decide it

for themselves -- is required in a lady of the richer classes to

render her able to pass by a shivering and hungry child in the

street without noticing it. But the mothers of the poorer classes

have not that training. They cannot stand the sight of a hungry

child; they must feed it, and so they do. "When the school

children beg bread, they seldom or rather never meet with a

refusal" -- a lady-friend, who has worked several years in

Whitechapel in connection with a workers' club, writes to me. But

I may, perhaps, as well transcribe a few more passages from her

letter: --

"Nursing neighbours, in cases of illness, without any shade

of remuneration, is quite general among the workers. Also, when a

woman has little children, and goes out for work, another mother

always takes care of them.

"If, in the working classes, they would not help each other,

they could not exist. I know families which continually help each

other -- with money, with food, with fuel, for bringing up the

little children, in cases of illness, in cases of death.

"'The mine' and 'thine' is much less sharply observed among

the poor than among the rich. Shoes, dress, hats, and so on, --

what may be wanted on the spot -- are continually borrowed from

each other, also all sorts of household things.

"Last winter the members of the United Radical Club had

brought together some little money, and began after Christmas to

distribute free soup and bread to the children going to school.

Gradually they had 1,800 children to attend to. The money came

from outsiders, but all the work was done by the members of the

club. Some of them, who were out of work, came at four in the

morning to wash and to peel the vegetables; five women came at

nine or ten (after having done their own household work) for

cooking, and stayed till six or seven to wash the dishes. And at

meal time, between twelve and half-past one, twenty to thirty

workers came in to aid in serving the soup, each one staying what

he could spare of his meal time. This lasted for two months. No

one was paid."

My friend also mentions various individual cases, of which

the following are typical: --

"Annie W. was given by her mother to be boarded by an old

person in Wilmot Street. When her mother died, the old woman, who

herself was very poor, kept the child without being paid a penny

for that. When the old lady died too, the child, who was five

years old, was of course neglected during her illness, and was

ragged; but she was taken at once by Mrs. S., the wife of a

shoemaker, who herself has six children. Lately, when the husband

was ill, they had not much to eat, all of them.

"The other day, Mrs. M., mother of six children, attended

Mrs. M--g throughout her illness, and took to her own rooms the

elder child.... But do you need such facts? They are quite

general.... I know also Mrs. D. (Oval, Hackney Road), who has a

sewing machine and continually sews for others, without ever

accepting any remuneration, although she has herself five

children and her husband to look after.... And so on."

For every one who has any idea of the life of the labouring

classes it is evident that without mutual aid being practised

among them on a large scale they never could pull through all

their difficulties. It is only by chance that a worker's family

can live its lifetime without having to face such circumstances

as the crisis described by the ribbon weaver, Joseph Gutteridge,

in his autobiography.18 And if all do not go to the ground in

such cases, they owe it to mutual help. In Gutteridge's case it

was an old nurse, miserably poor herself, who turned up at the

moment when the family was slipping towards a final catastrophe,

and brought in some bread, coal, and bedding, which she had

obtained on credit. In other cases, it will be some one else, or

the neighbours will take steps to save the family. But without

some aid from other poor, how many more would be brought every

year to irreparable ruin!19

Mr. Plimsoll, after he had lived for some time among the

poor, on 7s. 6d. a week, was compelled to recognize that the

kindly feelings he took with him when he began this life "changed

into hearty respect and admiration" when he saw how the relations

between the poor are permeated with mutual aid and support, and

learned the simple ways in which that support is given. After a

many years' experience, his conclusion was that" when you come to

think of it, such as these men were, so were the vast majority of

the working classes."20 As to bringing up orphans, even by the

poorest families, it is so widely-spread a habit, that it may be

described as a general rule; thus among the miners it was found,

after the two explosions at Warren Vale and at Lund Hill, that

"nearly one-third of the men killed, as the respective committees

can testify, were thus supporting relations other than wife and

child." "Have you reflected," Mr. Plimsoll added, "what this is?

Rich men, even comfortably-to-do men do this, I don't doubt. But

consider the difference." Consider what a sum of one shilling,

subscribed by each worker to help a comrade's widow, or 6d. to

help a fellow-worker to defray the extra expense of a funeral,

means for one who earns 16s. a week and has a wife, and in some

cases five or six children to support.21 But such

subscriptions are a general practice among the workers all over

the world, even in much more ordinary cases than a death in the

family, while aid in work is the commonest thing in their lives.

Nor do the same practices of mutual aid and support fail

among the richer classes. Of course, when one thinks of the

harshness which is often shown by the richer employers towards

their employees, one feels inclined to take the most pessimist

view of human nature. Many must remember the indignation which

was aroused during the great Yorkshire strike of 1894, when old

miners who had picked coal from an abandoned pit were prosecuted

by the colliery owners. And, even if we leave aside the horrors

of the periods of struggle and social war, such as the

extermination of thousands of workers' prisoners after the fall

of the Paris Commune -- who can read, for instance, revelations

of the labour inquest which was made here in the forties, or what

Lord Shaftesbury wrote about "the frightful waste of human life

in the factories, to which the children taken from the

workhouses, or simply purchased all over this country to be sold

as factory slaves, were consigned"22 -- who can read that

without being vividly impressed by the baseness which is possible

in man when his greediness is at stake? But it must also be said

that all fault for such treatment must not be thrown entirely

upon the criminality of human nature. Were not the teachings of

men of science, and even of a notable portion of the clergy, up

to a quite recent time, teachings of distrust, despite and almost

hatred towards the poorer classes? Did not science teach that

since serfdom has been abolished, no one need be poor unless for

his own vices? And how few in the Church had the courage to blame

the children-killers, while the great numbers taught that the

sufferings of the poor, and even the slavery of the negroes, were

part of the Divine Plan! Was not Nonconformism itself largely a

popular protest against the harsh treatment of the poor at the

hand of the established Church?

With such spiritual leaders, the feelings of the richer

classes necessarily became, as Mr. Pimsoll remarked, not so much

blunted as "stratified." They seldom went downwards towards the

poor, from whom the well-to-do-people are separated by their

manner of life, and whom they do not know under their best

aspects, in their every-day life. But among themselves --

allowance being made for the effects of the wealth-accumulating

passions and the futile expenses imposed by wealth itself --

among themselves, in the circle of family and friends, the rich

practise the same mutual aid and support as the poor. Dr. Ihering

and L. Dargun are perfectly right in saying that if a statistical

record could be taken of all the money which passes from hand to

hand in the shape of friendly loans and aid, the sum total would

be enormous, even in comparison with the commercial transactions

of the world's trade. And if we could add to it, as we certainly

ought to, what is spent in hospitality, petty mutual services,

the management of other people's affairs, gifts and charities, we

certainly should be struck by the importance of such transfers in

national economy. Even in the world which is ruled by commercial

egotism, the current expression, "We have been harshly treated by

that firm," shows that there is also the friendly treatment, as

opposed to the harsh, i.e. the legal treatment; while every

commercial man knows how many firms are saved every year from

failure by the friendly support of other firms.

As to the charities and the amounts of work for general

well-being which are voluntarily done by so many well-to-do

persons, as well as by workers, and especially by professional

men, every one knows the part which is played by these two

categories of benevolence in modern life. If the desire of

acquiring notoriety, political power, or social distinction often

spoils the true character of that sort of benevolence, there is

no doubt possible as to the impulse coming in the majority of

cases from the same mutual-aid feelings. Men who have acquired

wealth very often do not find in it the expected satisfaction.

Others begin to feel that, whatever economists may say about

wealth being the reward of capacity, their own reward is

exaggerated. The conscience of human solidarity begins to tell;

and, although society life is so arranged as to stifle that

feeling by thousands of artful means, it often gets the upper

hand; and then they try to find an outcome for that deeply human

need by giving their fortune, or their forces, to something

which, in their opinion, will promote general welfare.

In short, neither the crushing powers of the centralized

State nor the teachings of mutual hatred and pitiless struggle

which came, adorned with the attributes of science, from obliging

philosophers and sociologists, could weed out the feeling of

human solidarity, deeply lodged in men's understanding and heart,

because it has been nurtured by all our preceding evolution. What

was the outcome of evolution since its earliest stages cannot be

overpowered by one of the aspects of that same evolution. And the

need of mutual aid and support which had lately taken refuge in

the narrow circle of the family, or the slum neighbours, in the

village, or the secret union of workers, re-asserts itself again,

even in our modern society, and claims its rights to be, as it

always has been, the chief leader towards further progress. Such

are the conclusions which we are necessarily brought to when we

carefully ponder over each of the groups of facts briefly

enumerated in the last two chapters.

1 Toulmin Smith, English Guilds, London, 1870, Introd. p. xliii.
2 The Act of Edward the Sixth -- the first of his reign --
ordered to hand over to the Crown "all fraternities,
brotherhoods, and guilds being within the realm of England and
Wales and other of the king's dominions; and all manors, lands,
tenements, and other hereditaments belonging to them or any of
them" (English Guilds, Introd. p. xliii). See also Ockenkowski's
Englands wirtschaftliche Entwickelung im Ausgange des
Mittelalters, Jena, 1879, chaps. ii-v.
3 See Sidney and Beatrice Webb, History of Trade-Unionism,
London, 1894, pp. 21-38.
4 See in Sidney Webb's work the associations which existed at
that time. The London artisans are supposed to have never been
better organized than in 181O-20.
5 The National Association for the Protection of Labour included
about 150 separate unions, which paid high levies, and had a
membership of about 100,000. The Builders' Union and the Miners'
Unions also were big organizations (Webb, l.c. p. 107).
6 I follow in this Mr. Webb's work, which is replete with
documents to confirm his statements.
7 Great changes have taken place since the forties in the
attitude of the richer classes towards the unions. However, even
in the sixties, the employers made a formidable concerted attempt
to crush them by locking out whole populations. Up to 1869 the
simple agreement to strike, and the announcement of a strike by
placards, to say nothing of picketing, were often punished as
intimidation. Only in 1875 the Master and Servant Act was
repealed, peaceful picketing was permitted, and "violence and
intimidation" during strikes fell into the domain of common law.
Yet, even during the dock-labourers' strike in 1887, relief money
had to be spent for fighting before the Courts for the right of
picketing, while the prosecutions of the last few years menace
once more to render the conquered rights illusory.
8 A weekly contribution of 6d. out of an 18s. wage, or of 1s.
out of 25s., means much more than 9l. out of a 300l. income: it
is mostly taken upon food; and the levy is soon doubled when a
strike is declared in a brother union. The graphic description of
trade-union life, by a skilled craftsman, published by Mr. and
Mrs. Webb (pp. 431 seq.), gives an excellent idea of the amount
of work required from a unionist.
9 See the debates upon the strikes of Falkenau in Austria before
the Austrian Reichstag on the 10th of May, 1894, in which debates
the fact is fully recognized by the Ministry and the owner of the
colliery. Also the English Press of that time.
10 Many such facts will be found in the Daily Chronicle and
partly the Daily News for October and November 1894.
11 The 31,473 productive and consumers' associations on the
Middle Rhine showed, about 1890, a yearly expenditure of
18,437,500l.; 3,675,000l. were granted during the year in loans.
12 British Consular Report, April 1889.
13 A capital research on this subject has been published in
Russian in the Zapiski (Memoirs) of the Caucasian Geographical
Society, vol. vi. 2, Tiflis, 1891, by C. Egiazaroff.
14 Escape from a French prison is extremely difficult;
nevertheless a prisoner escaped from one of the French prisons in
1884 or 1885. He even managed to conceal himself during the whole
day, although the alarm was given and the peasants in the
neighbourhood were on the look-out for him. Next morning found
him concealed in a ditch, close by a small village. Perhaps he
intended to steal some food, or some clothes in order to take off
his prison uniform. As he was lying in the ditch a fire broke out
in the village. He saw a woman running out of one of the burning
houses, and heard her desperate appeals to rescue a child in the
upper storey of the burning house. No one moved to do so. Then
the escaped prisoner dashed out of his retreat, made his way
through the fire, and, with a scalded face and burning clothes,
brought the child safe out of the fire, and handed it to its
mother. Of course he was arrested on the spot by the village
gendarme, who now made his appearance. He was taken back to the
prison. The fact was reported in all French papers, but none of
them bestirred itself to obtain his release. If he had shielded a
warder from a comrade's blow. he would have been made a hero of.
But his act was simply humane, it did not promote the State's
ideal; he himself did not attribute it to a sudden inspiration of
divine grace; and that was enough to let the man fall into
oblivion. Perhaps, six or twelve months were added to his
sentence for having stolen -- "the State's property" -- the
prison's dress.
15 The medical Academy for Women (which has given to Russia a
large portion of her 700 graduated lady doctors), the four
Ladies' Universities (about 1,000 pupils in 1887; closed that
year, and reopened in 1895), and the High Commercial School for
Women are entirely the work of such private societies. To the
same societies we owe the high standard which the girls' gymnasia
attained since they were opened in the sixties. The 100 gymnasia
now scattered over the Empire (over 70,000 pupils), correspond to
the High Schools for Girls in this country; all teachers are,
however, graduates of the universities.
16 The Verein f?r Verbreitung gemeinn?tslicher Kenntnisse,
although it has only 5,500 members, has already opened more than
1,000 public and school libraries, organized thousands of
lectures, and published most valuable books.
17 Very few writers in sociology have paid attention to it. Dr.
Ihering is one of them, and his case is very instructive. When
the great German writer on law began his philosophical work, Der
Zweck im Rechte ("Purpose in Law"), he intended to analyze "the
active forces which call forth the advance of society and
maintain it," and to thus give "the theory of the sociable man."
He analyzed, first, the egotistic forces at work, including the
present wage-system and coercion in its variety of political and
social laws; and in a carefully worked-out scheme of his work he
intended to give the last paragraph to the ethical forces -- the
sense of duty and mutual love -- which contribute to the same
aim. When he came, however, to discuss the social functions of
these two factors, he had to write a second volume, twice as big
as the first; and yet he treated only of the personal factors
which will take in the following pages only a few lines. L.
Dargun took up the same idea in Egoismus und Altruismus in der
National?konomie, Leipzig, 1885, adding some new facts. B?chner's
Love, and the several paraphrases of it published here and in
Germany, deal with the same subject.
18 Light and Shadows in the Life of an Artisan. Coventry, 1893.
19 Many rich people cannot understand how the very poor can help
each other, because they do not realize upon what infinitesimal
amounts of food or money often hangs the life of one of the
poorest cLasses. Lord Shaftesbury had understood this terribLe
truth when he started his Flowers and Watercress Girls' Fund, out
of which loans of one pound, and only occasionally two pounds,
were granted, to enable the girls to buy a basket and flowers
when the winter sets in and they are in dire distress. The loans
were given to girls who had "not a sixpence," but never failed to
find some other poor to go bail for them. "Of all the movements I
have ever been connected with," Lord Shaftesbury wrote, "I look
upon this Watercress Girls' movement as the most successful....
It was begun in 1872, and we have had out 800 to 1,000 loans, and
have not lost 50l. during the whole period.... What has been lost
-- and it has been very little, under the circumstances -- has
been by reason of death or sickness, not by fraud" (The Life and
Work of the Seventh Earl of Shaftesbury, by Edwin Hodder, vol.
iii. p. 322. London, 1885-86). Several more facts in point in Ch.
Booth's Life and Labour in London, vol. i; in Miss Beatrice
Potter's "Pages from a Work Girl's Diary" (Nineteenth Century,
September 1888, p. 310); and so on.
20 Samuel Plimsoll, Our Seamen, cheap edition, London, 1870, p.
21 Our Seamen, u.s., p. 110. Mr. Plimsoll added: "I don't wish
to disparage the rich, but I think it may be reasonably doubted
whether these qualities are so fully developed in them; for,
notwithstanding that not a few of them are not unacquainted with
the claims, reasonable or unreasonable, of poor relatives, these
qualities are not in such constant exercise. Riches seem in so
many cases to smother the manliness of their possessors, and
their sympathies become, not so much narrowed as -- so to speak
-- stratified: they are reserved for the sufferings of their own
class, and also the woes of those above them. They seldom tend
downwards much, and they are far more likely to admire an act of
courage... than to admire the constantly exercised fortitude and
the tenderness which are the daily characteristics of a British
workman's life" -- and of the workmen all over the world as well.
22 Life of the Seventh Earl of Shaftesbury, by Edwin Hodder,
vol. i. pp. 137-138.



Submitted by libcom on January 31, 2006

If we take now the teachings which can be borrowed from the

analysis of modern society, in connection with the body of

evidence relative to the importance of mutual aid in the

evolution of the animal world and of mankind, we may sum up our

inquiry as follows.

In the animal world we have seen that the vast majority of

species live in societies, and that they find in association the

best arms for the struggle for life: understood, of course, in

its wide Darwinian sense -- not as a struggle for the sheer means

of existence, but as a struggle against all natural conditions

unfavourable to the species. The animal species, in which

individual struggle has been reduced to its narrowest limits, and

the practice of mutual aid has attained the greatest development,

are invariably the most numerous, the most prosperous, and the

most open to further progress. The mutual protection which is

obtained in this case, the possibility of attaining old age and

of accumulating experience, the higher intellectual development,

and the further growth of sociable habits, secure the maintenance

of the species, its extension, and its further progressive

evolution. The unsociable species, on the contrary, are doomed to


Going next over to man, we found him living in clans and

tribes at the very dawn of the stone age; we saw a wide series of

social institutions developed already in the lower savage stage,

in the clan and the tribe; and we found that the earliest tribal

customs and habits gave to mankind the embryo of all the

institutions which made later on the leading aspects of further

progress. Out of the savage tribe grew up the barbarian village

community; and a new, still wider, circle of social customs,

habits, and institutions, numbers of which are still alive among

ourselves, was developed under the principles of common

possession of a given territory and common defence of it, under

the jurisdiction of the village folkmote, and in the federation

of villages belonging, or supposed to belong, to one stem. And

when new requirements induced men to make a new start, they made

it in the city, which represented a double network of territorial

units (village communities), connected with guilds these latter

arising out of the common prosecution of a given art or craft, or

for mutual support and defence.

And finally, in the last two chapters facts were produced to

show that although the growth of the State on the pattern of

Imperial Rome had put a violent end to all medieval institutions

for mutual support, this new aspect of civilization could not

last. The State, based upon loose aggregations of individuals and

undertaking to be their only bond of union, did not answer its

purpose. The mutual-aid tendency finally broke down its iron

rules; it reappeared and reasserted itself in an infinity of

associations which now tend to embrace all aspects of life and to

take possession of all that is required by man for life and for

reproducing the waste occasioned by life.

It will probably be remarked that mutual aid, even though it

may represent one of the factors of evolution, covers

nevertheless one aspect only of human relations; that by the side

of this current, powerful though it may be, there is, and always

has been, the other current -- the self-assertion of the

individual, not only in its efforts to attain personal or caste

superiority, economical, political, and spiritual, but also in

its much more important although less evident function of

breaking through the bonds, always prone to become crystallized,

which the tribe, the village community, the city, and the State

impose upon the individual. In other words, there is the

self-assertion of the individual taken as a progressive element.

It is evident that no review of evolution can be complete,

unless these two dominant currents are analyzed. However, the

self-assertion of the individual or of groups of individuals,

their struggles for superiority, and the conflicts which resulted

therefrom, have already been analyzed, described, and glorified

from time immemorial. In fact, up to the present time, this

current alone has received attention from the epical poet, the

annalist, the historian, and the sociologist. History, such as it

has hitherto been written, is almost entirely a description of

the ways and means by which theocracy, military power, autocracy,

and, later on, the richer classes' rule have been promoted,

established, and maintained. The struggles between these forces

make, in fact, the substance of history. We may thus take the

knowledge of the individual factor in human history as granted --

even though there is full room for a new study of the subject on

the lines just alluded to; while, on the other side, the

mutual-aid factor has been hitherto totally lost sight of; it was

simply denied, or even scoffed at, by the writers of the present

and past generation. It was therefore necessary to show, first of

all, the immense part which this factor plays in the evolution of

both the animal world and human societies. Only after this has

been fully recognized will it be possible to proceed to a

comparison between the two factors.

To make even a rough estimate of their relative importance by

any method more or less statistical, is evidently impossible. One

single war -- we all know -- may be productive of more evil,

immediate and subsequent, than hundreds of years of the unchecked

action of the mutual-aid principle may be productive of good. But

when we see that in the animal world, progressive development and

mutual aid go hand in hand, while the inner struggle within the

species is concomitant with retrogressive development; when we

notice that with man, even success in struggle and war is

proportionate to the development of mutual aid in each of the two

conflicting nations, cities, parties, or tribes, and that in the

process of evolution war itself (so far as it can go this way)

has been made subservient to the ends of progress in mutual aid

within the nation, the city or the clan -- we already obtain a

perception of the dominating influence of the mutual-aid factor

as an element of progress. But we see also that the practice of

mutual aid and its successive developments have created the very

conditions of society life in which man was enabled to develop

his arts, knowledge, and intelligence; and that the periods when

institutions based on the mutual-aid tendency took their greatest

development were also the periods of the greatest progress in

arts, industry, and science. In fact, the study of the inner life

of the medieval city and of the ancient Greek cities reveals the

fact that the combination of mutual aid, as it was practised

within the guild and the Greek clan, with a large initiative

which was left to the individual and the group by means of the

federative principle, gave to mankind the two greatest periods of

its history -- the ancient Greek city and the medieval city

periods; while the ruin of the above institutions during the

State periods of history, which followed, corresponded in both

cases to a rapid decay.

As to the sudden industrial progress which has been achieved

during our own century, and which is usually ascribed to the

triumph of individualism and competition, it certainly has a much

deeper origin than that. Once the great discoveries of the

fifteenth century were made, especially that of the pressure of

the atmosphere, supported by a series of advances in natural

philosophy -- and they were made under the medieval city

organization, -- once these discoveries were made, the invention

of the steam-motor, and all the revolution which the conquest of

a new power implied, had necessarily to follow. If the medieval

cities had lived to bring their discoveries to that point, the

ethical consequences of the revolution effected by steam might

have been different; but the same revolution in technics and

science would have inevitably taken place. It remains, indeed, an

open question whether the general decay of industries which

followed the ruin of the free cities, and was especially

noticeable in the first part of the eighteenth century, did not

considerably retard the appearance of the steam-engine as well as

the consequent revolution in arts. When we consider the

astounding rapidity of industrial progress from the twelfth to

the fifteenth centuries -- in weaving, working of metals,

architecture and navigation, and ponder over the scientific

discoveries which that industrial progress led to at the end of

the fifteenth century -- we must ask ourselves whether mankind

was not delayed in its taking full advantage of these conquests

when a general depression of arts and industries took place in

Europe after the decay of medieval civilization. Surely it was

not the disappearance of the artist-artisan, nor the ruin of

large cities and the extinction of intercourse between them,

which could favour the industrial revolution; and we know indeed

that James Watt spent twenty or more years of his life in order

to render his invention serviceable, because he could not find in

the last century what he would have readily found in medieval

Florence or Br?gge, that is, the artisans capable of realizing

his devices in metal, and of giving them the artistic finish and

precision which the steam-engine requires.

To attribute, therefore, the industrial progress of our

century to the war of each against all which it has proclaimed,

is to reason like the man who, knowing not the causes of rain,

attributes it to the victim he has immolated before his clay

idol. For industrial progress, as for each other conquest over

nature, mutual aid and close intercourse certainly are, as they

have been, much more advantageous than mutual struggle.

However, it is especially in the domain of ethics that. the

dominating importance of the mutual-aid principle appears in

full. That mutual aid is the real foundation of our ethical

conceptions seems evident enough. But whatever the opinions as to

the first origin of the mutual-aid feeling or instinct may be

whether a biological or a supernatural cause is ascribed to it --

we must trace its existence as far back as to the lowest stages

of the animal world; and from these stages we can follow its

uninterrupted evolution, in opposition to a number of contrary

agencies, through all degrees of human development, up to the

present times. Even the new religions which were born from time

to time -- always at epochs when the mutual-aid principle was

falling into decay in the theocracies and despotic States of the

East, or at the decline of the Roman Empire -- even the new

religions have only reaffirmed that same principle. They found

their first supporters among the humble, in the lowest,

downtrodden layers of society, where the mutual-aid principle is

the necessary foundation of every-day life; and the new forms of

union which were introduced in the earliest Buddhist and

Christian communities, in the Moravian brotherhoods and so on,

took the character of a return to the best aspects of mutual aid

i n early tribal life.

Each time, however, that an attempt to return to this old

principle was made, its fundamental idea itself was widened. From

the clan it was extended to the stem, to the federation of stems,

to the nation, and finally -- in ideal, at least -- to the whole

of mankind. It was also refined at the same time. In primitive

Buddhism, in primitive Christianity, in the writings of some of

the Mussulman teachers, in the early movements of the Reform, and

especially in the ethical and philosophical movements of the last

century and of our own times, the total abandonment of the idea

of revenge, or of "due reward" -- of good for good and evil for

evil -- is affirmed more and more vigorously. The higher

conception of "no revenge for wrongs," and of freely giving more

than one expects to receive from his neighbours, is proclaimed as

being the real principle of morality -- a principle superior to

mere equivalence, equity, or justice, and more conducive to

happiness. And man is appealed to to be guided in his acts, not

merely by love, which is always personal, or at the best tribal,

but by the perception of his oneness with each human being. In

the practice of mutual aid, which we can retrace to the earliest

beginnings of evolution, we thus find the positive and undoubted

origin of our ethical conceptions; and we can affirm that in the

ethical progress of man, mutual support not mutual struggle --

has had the leading part. In its wide extension, even at the

present time, we also see the best guarantee of a still loftier

evolution of our race.