The State: Its Historic Rdle. 7
war was often the result. It is true that then already men tried to
mitigate the effect of these shocks. Already then, as has so well been
demonstrated by Maine, Post, Nys, the tribes agreed upon and respected
certain rules and limitations of war which contained the germs of what
was to become international law later on. For example, a village was
not to be attacked without giving warning to the inhabitants. Never
would anyone have dared to kill on a path trodden by women going to
the well. And, to come to terms, the balance of the men killed on both
sides had to be paid.
However, from that time forward, a general law overruled
all others :—" Your people have killed or wounded one of ours, therefore we have the right to kill one of yours, or to inflict an absolutely
similar wound on one of yours "—never mind which, as it is always the
tribe that is responsible for every act of its members. The well-known
biblical verses, " Blood for blood, an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth,
a wound for a wound, a life for a life,"—but no more !—thence derive
their origin, as was so well remarked by Koenigswarter. It was their
conception of justice, and we have not much reason to boast; as the
principle of " a life for a life " which prevails in our codes is but one of
its numerous survivals
As you see, a whole series of institutions, and many others which I
must pass over in silence—a whole code of tribal morals was already
elaborated during this primitive stage. And to maintain this kernel of
social customs in force, habit, custom, tradition sufficed. There was no
authority to impose it.
Primitive individuals had, no doubt, temporary leaders. The sorcerer,
the rain-maker—the scientist of that epoch—sought to profit by what
they knew, or thought they knew about nature, to rule over their fellow men. Likewise, he who could best remember proverbs and songs,
in which tradition was embodied, became powerful. And, since then,
these " educated " men endeavoured to secure their rulership by only
transmitting their knowledge to the elect. All religions, and even all
arts and crafts, have begun, you know, by "mysteries."
Also the brave, the bold, and the cunning man became the temporary leader during conflicts with other tribes, or during migrations.
But an alliance between the "law" bearer, the military chief and the
witch-doctor did not exist, and there can be no more question of a State
with these tribes than there is in a society of bees or ants, or among
our contemporaries the Patagonians or the Esquimaux.
This stage, however, lasted thousands upon thousands of years, and
the barbarians who invaded the Roman empire had just passed through
it. In fact, they had hardly emerged from it.