Arthur John Hubbard.

The fate of empires; being an inquiry into the stability of civilisation online

. (page 10 of 14)
Online LibraryArthur John HubbardThe fate of empires; being an inquiry into the stability of civilisation → online text (page 10 of 14)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

thirty-seven, to the barren little island of Pandataria.
The sentence was never revoked, and she died in
extreme want and misery. Her daughter, of the
same name, offended against the same law, and
was banished to a small island in the Adriatic.
Neither was the operation of the law confined
to such persons as the Julias. Tacitus ^ says that
'' Spies were appointed, who by the Law Pappia
Poppgea were encouraged with rewards to watch
such as neglected the privileges of marriage, in
order that the State, the common parent, might
obtain their vacant possessions." Some of these
spies became extremely rich, and the system of
" delation " assumed enormous proportions.

Nevertheless the law failed in its purpose.
Tacitus writes,^ "Not even by this means (Lex
Pappia Poppaea) did marriages and the bringing up
of children become more in vogue, the advantage
of having no children to inherit outweighing the
penalty of disobedience."

In A.D. 9, thirty -four years after the Leoo
Julia had come into force, Augustus received,

^ Ann., iii. 28.
2 Ibid., iii. 25.


says Echard/ great complaints "concerning the
too great Number of the unmarry'd Equites,
which in a great measure proceeded from the
Looseness of their Lives. This, together with
the fatal Example of it to others, appear'd a
Matter of so dangerous a Consequence to this
good Emperor, that he immediately summon'd
the whole Body of the Equestrian Order ; where,
in the Assembly, he ordered the Marry 'd and
Unmarry'd Persons to be separately plac'd :
Then observing the former to be much inferior
to the latter in number, after high applauding
of the Marry'd Sort, he told the other. That
their Lives and Actions has been so peculiar, that
he knew not by what Name to call 'em; not by
that of Men, for they 'perform' d nothing that was
Manly ; nor by that of Citizens, for the City might
perish notwithstanding their Care: nor by that of
Romans, for they design d to extirpate the Roman
name. Then proceeding to shew his tender Care
and hearty Affection for his People, he further
told 'em, That their Coui^se of Life was of such
pernicious consequence to the Glory and Grandeur
of the Roman Nation, that he cou'd not chise but
tell 'em. That all other Crimes put together coud
not equalize theirs : Eor they were guilty of Murder,
in not suffering those to be born, which shoiCd pro-
ceed from 'em ; of Impiety, in causing the Names
and Honours of their Ancestors to cease ; and of
Sacrilege, in destr^oying their kind, which proceed
from the Immortal Gods, and Human Nature, the
principal thing consecrated to 'em. Therefore, in

^ Op. cit., vol. ii. pp. 44 and 45.


that respect they dissolvd the Government, in dis-
obeying its Laws; betray d their Country^ by making
it Barren and Waste; nay and demolislid their
City, in depriving it of Inhabitants. And he was
sensible that all this proceeded not from any kind
of Vertue or Abstinence, but from a Looseness and
Wantonness which ought never to be encouraged in
any Civil Government. Having finish'd his Speech,
he immediately increas'd the Rewards of such as
had Children, and impos'd considerable Fines upon
unmarry'd Persons, allowing them the Term of a
Year, in which Space, if they comply'd, they were
freed from the Penalty."

There is a strange commentary upon this speech.
In the reign of Nero, fifty years after the death of
Augustus, Tacitus attests that "nearly all the
Equites and the greater number of the Senators
betrayed a servile origin." This is much as though
the financial department of our Civil Service were
manned by the naturalised sons of aliens, and the
greater number of the members of our House of
Lords betrayed a similar origin. At a later period,
even among the emperors, many cease to be of
Roman blood.

For long the framework of the State was main-
tained by the constant influx of aliens, chiefly
slaves from the East, and German invaders from
the North. The manumission of slaves went on
uninterruptedly, and was a State necessity. The
slave had a right to certain private savings his
peculium and with this could frequently purchase
his freedom. On manumission, those of servile
birth entered into the middle class of libertines



or freedmen, and, even in the time of the first
Cgesars, it sufficed to be born free to be qualified
as ingenuous, or native freeborn as opposed to
foreign. This was decided by the condition of
the mother. " And the candour of the laws was
satisfied," says Gibbon,^ '* if her freedom could be
ascertained, during a single moment, between the
conception and the delivery."

Under these circumstances it is evident that
the statistics which have come down to us are
vitiated. If the Chinese were admitted into
Australia, and their Australian - born children
were reckoned as Australians, no deduction re-
lating to the white race could be drawn from
the figures of a census.

Still, we know that the relief to depopulation
that was thus afforded was only temporary.
Reason did not spare the newcomers, and multi-
tudes poured into Italy, only to vanish, like a
river flowing into sands.

History holds no record of a more courageous
and magnificent attempt than that of Augustus
to reconcile the interests of Society and the Race
on a geocentric basis. His lifelong effort failed;
the Roman world paraphrased the corrosive
question that was asked by the Emperor Helio-
gabalus : " Can anything be better for a man
than to be heir to himself?" and decided that
nothing could be better for Society than to
spend the inheritance of the Race upon itself.
The legislation of Augustus could not traverse
the strict logic of that conclusion. Twenty-six

^ Op. cit.y chap. xliv.


years after Diocletian stepped down from the
throne, Constantine removed the seat of im-
perial power from the Tiber to the Bosphorus,
and we find Lactantius, a Christian writer who
was contemporary with both, bewailing the
"ominous depopulation of Italy," and the crush-
ing taxation that fell on the few survivors.
Pure Reason had extirpated the great breed of
the builders of Rome, and civilisation suffered
an eclipse that lasted for a thousand years.



The history of ancient Greek civilisation is parallel
to that of the Roman. We find the same geo-
centric quality in religion, the same character in
Society, and the same disappearance of the Race.
Essentially, the history of ancient Greece is the
record of a brief period of intellectual eminence,
and our interest is centred in the rapidity of the
appearance of this high development of Reason, the
astonishing perfection to which it was carried, the
shortness of its duration, and the suddenness with
which it vanished. The history of mental ability
in Greece is that of a rocket. There is the rapid
ascent of a thin stream of light, the brilliance for a
moment, and then again darkness.

The period of intellectual productiveness in the
Greek race only extends over less than 200 years,
and yet it has set its mark upon the world ever
since. The men who made the name of their
country famous were born between 525 B.C. and
342 B.C. ; before and after those years such dis-
tinguished names as those in the following list are
few and far between :

Born B.C.

Born B.C.

Born B.C

/Rachylus .

. . 525

Thucydides .

. 471

Demosthenes . 395

Pindar . .

. . 522

Socrates . .

. 469

iEschines . . .389

Sophocles .

. . 495

Hippocrates .

. 460

Aristotle . . .384

Phidias .

. . 490


. 444

Praxiteles (flor.) 364


. . 484


. 444

Zeno .... 362

Euripides .

. . 480

Plato . . .


. 428

Epicurus . . .342


There is, furthermore, a consensus of opinion
among modern scholars to the effect that, during
this period, a general intellectual capacity was
diffused among the worshippers of Athene that is
not less astonishing than the number of the men
of genius who were produced.

Two questions evidently arise. Firstly, we
have to ask : " What was the cause that determined
the suddenness of the disappearance of this intel-
lectual splendour, and the shortness of its con-
tinuance?" Secondly, we may be permitted to
ask : " Ahat was the cause of its equally sudden
eruption ? "

In regard to the first question, we may point
out that, although the writer did not intend it,
there is a sense in which the 5th Book of the
Republic of Plato, and parts of the Politics of
Aristotle, may be read as an explanation of the
disappearance of Greek civilisation. That dis-
appearance is an occurrence which falls into its
place along with other similar phenomena. We
have seen it in Rome, and analysed its causation :
we know that in Greece the conditions were so
similar that a like result might be expected.
There also the great breed died out. The pro-
duction of its wonderful works ceases abruptly in
an hour the spring ran dry; and we find nothing
in the record of Greek morals that debars us from
the conclusion that the suddenness with which the
extermination of the brilliant Race was effected
stands in direct proportion to the pre-eminence in
Reason that had been attained by its individual


Our second question : " What caused the
sudden development of a Race possessed of such
supreme intellectual ability?" is one that only
concerns our argument indirectly, and yet is not
so far removed from it that v^e can neglect it

Study of the literature and life of ancient
Greece leads to a suspicion that efforts were made
to breed the most successful Race. It may safely
be said that the subject was certainly present in
Greek thought it was " in the air." It was much
discussed, for their philosophers have left us the
outlines of imaginary States wherein such an effort
was to be carried out wherein the abolition of
social competition was to involve, naturally, the
abolition of free sexual selection, and the sub-
stitution of a system whereby none but the most
able members were to be chosen for parentage.
Their offspring were to be supported and reared at
the public expense, while the less able members,
by various expedients, were to be prevented from
contributing to the numbers of the State.

Dr. Bateson, in his great work on Mendelism,^
makes the following remarks in his paragraph (pp.
303-6) on its sociological application : " The out-
come of genetic research is to show that human
society can, if it so please, control its composition
more easily than was previously supposed possible.
. . . The consequence of such action will be im-
mediate and decisive." We cannot lay too much
stress upon this weighty expression of opinion, and

1 MendeVs Principles of Heredity, by W. Bateson, M.A., F.R.S.
Cambridge University Press, 1909.


the hypothesis that, in ancient Greece, eugenic
measures were not only " in the air," but in opera-
tion, would explain the sudden eruption of a high
development of Reason.

Nevertheless, as we have already pointed out
(p. 54), the basis of a permanent civilisation does
not lie hidden among the secrets of heredity, and
no success in breeding for intellectual ability will,
pe7^ se, suffice to reveal it.

Further examination of the records of ancient
Greek life should be able to confirm or reject the
hypothesis that the period of ability arose as the
result of the selection of the more able for parent-
age, and the rejection of the less able. If it were
confirmed, then we should see not only the im-
mediate success of eugenic measures, but also their
ultimate result in the prompt self-destruction of
the Race. The whole subject is worthy of in-
vestigation by the modern students of " positive "
Eugenics, for, to quote Thucydides, " History is
philosophy teaching by examples."




When we turn to the enduring civilisation of the
far East, we find that the conditions are the very-
opposite of those obtaining in the ephemeral civili-
sations of the West. The contrast is not merely
one springing from superficial distinctions of manner
and custom. It is so profound and so detailed as
to have a startling effect upon the mind, and seems
to have been arranged artificially and of set pur-
pose. The impression produced upon a man of
European origin, arrived in China, is not ade-
quately expressed by saying that he is bewildered,
or that he finds himself at a loss. The very
foundations of life, as he has known it, have
crumbled, and others have taken their place : the
world's centre of gravity seems to have moved,
and to be over his head. He has landed in another

We must seek for the explanation of this pheno-
menon far down in the contrast between the re-
ligious atmosphere of the West and that of the
East. The idea of Christian duty has been so
far rationalised that there are many minds in which
it is almost limited to our duty to Society. In
China, on the other hand, the European finds
himself amid a population whose sense of religious



duty, not less one-sided or less extraordinary than
his own, is limited to the duty that is owing to
' the Race. The European and the Chinaman are,
in fact, looking at opposite sides of the shield.

The mutual misunderstanding that follows is
so complete that, to the European, the Chinese
appear as a nation of materialists, and the most
unreligious of peoples. The mistake is akin to
that which led the Romans to accuse the early
Christians of atheism : and the one charge is as
baseless as the other.

The Buddhism of China is but a thin veneer
that overlies Tao, the ancient core of Chinese
belief, for the pantheism of Sakyamuni has been
found compatible with the native worship. '' Tao "
means "The Path" the path, that is, of the
active and creative principle in the universe. The
desire to live in conformity with this path is indi-
cated in a subsidiary manner in the system of
geomancy that is known as Fung-Shui, but is fully
seen in the system of Ancestor Worship.

The meaning that this worship has for the
mass of the people is not very easily realised by
the white man, either from a study of the Chinese
classics, or by conversation with Chinese literati.
The knowledge thus acquired is apt to be purely
external, and to lead to a presentation of the
subject that is European rather than Chinese.
The surest means of obtaining an adequate con-
ception of the real belief of the Chinese millions
is by an interpretation of the antique ritual that
is actually practised in the temples. Many years
ago, when in China, the writer had an opportunity


of "worshipping his ancestors" in a much-fre-
quented temple, and, as the experience occurred
to himself, it is more convenient to describe it
in the first person.

The chief priest and I, on meeting, vied with
one another in courtesy; and my interpreter ex-
plained the desire that I felt to provide for my
long-neglected ancestors. The most instructive
part of the interview immediately followed. The
priest politely inquired as to the number of my
children. I could not then as now claim the
title of Paterfamilias : I was not even married.
These facts having been duly explained by the
interpreter, the priest bowed in a conclusive

\ manner that implied that the interview was at
an end. Though young in years, I was not inex-
perienced in travel, and presently an accommode-
ment was found, and I was dismissed to consult
the temple oracle. My interpreter and I passed
through several of the courts of the temple, and,
arrived at the oracle, my candle was lighted and
the ceremonies of the occasion duly observed. In
the end I was furnished with a slip of yellow paper
bearing Chinese characters. Fortunately for my
purpose, these, as I afterwards learned, set forth

N that I was destined to be the father of "many
children, sons and daughters." Armed with this
certificate of fitness, I returned to the chief priest,
and was permitted to proceed with the worship
that was before denied to me.

Concerning this worship, it will suffice to say

V that it took the form of an expression of my rever-
ence for those who are the authors of my being.


If we can divine the true meaning that under-
lies this ritual and the conditions that control
admission to it, we shall have arrived at an
understanding of a faith that has built up an
unshakeable civilisation, and through thousands
of years has illuminated the lives of uncountable
millions. What meaning, then, do we see in it ?
We see that it is filled full with the idea of
creature and Creator of the individual in his
relation to the living and creative principle of
the universe. The Chinaman, through the long
chain of those, his own proximate creators, who
s^ have gone before him, worships the ultimate
Creator. And, if the chain thus extends back-
wards, so also must it reach forwards. The chain
of worship must not be broken; it must never
come to an end. Only when he himself has
assumed the character of a creator is the China-
man qualified to worship ; only by fatherhood,
actual or divinely guaranteed, is he justified in
appearing before his ancestors and his Creator,
paying to them their due meed of homage. The
chain of creation is one with the chain of worship,
and to break the one is to break the other.*' The
Chinese sense of religious reverence is expressed
by the word Hiao, a term that does not admit
of an English rendering, except by some such
poverty-stricken translation as *' filial piety." In
the mind of a Chinaman, Hiao not only implies
a sense of devotion to his creators and their
Creator, but also the piety that provides the gene-
rations to come, lest the chain of worship should
be broken. To break the chain selfishly is, to a


Chinaman, sin unthinkable. He knows nothing
of the distinctions that we draw between the
altar and the hearth : a sonless Chinaman has
failed in the primary justification of his being,
and is cut off from the infinitude and eternity
>^ that surround him. Fatherhood is his first duty
and his only worth.

Such a religion as this is in no sense geocentric :
the interest of its votaries is not considered it
serves no purpose of the individual, for (as we shall
see in the next chapter) it breaks him as though
upon a wheel. The interest of Society is ignored, it
inculcates no obedience to the Government, and is
no polity of the State, for the State can barely exist
in its presence. Hiao has no social influence ; social
conduct is left in such darkness that there the
Chinese have had to fall back upon the guidance
of Confucius, who, outside his Tao-ism, obtained
his importance merely as an ethical philosopher.
It serves, indeed, the race, and its power is con-
centrated upon one point the preservation of the
family upon overcoming, that is, the precise
form of rational conduct that has destroyed the
Western civilisations. This result, however, is
no more than an accident, for Tao rules in virtue
of its own authority. To him who follows Tao,
the Path of Creation, racial affairs are lifted into
the clear region of duty he is brought into contact
with the infinite; he serves in self-sacrifice, and
his life acquires cosmocentric significance. Tao
is not ad hoc.

In the Chinese civilisation, then, the governing
factors are exactly opposite to those that prevailed


in the Roman, and we may look for results that
are not less divergent. We may expect to see
the impoverishment of Society, the invulnerability
of the Race, and the age-long preservation of its




"When we come to examine the facts of social life

in China, our a priori expectations prove to be

true, and we find that, just as Society in Rome

went to one extreme, so Society in China flies to

the opposite, and that the splendour of the one is

not less astonishing than the sordid squalor of the

other. The narrow Chinese conception of religious

duty is obeyed with all the intensity of narrowness.

The land teems with humanity, but there is no

suggestion of communism, and the social stress

assumes a horrible severity.^

The absence of any form of communism is

most clearly to be seen in the contrast between

the ancient or modern trades union and its

Chinese analogue. The vast Chinese industrial

associations consist chiefly, but not entirely, of

unskilled labourers, and are not confined to men

of any one trade. A bargain is struck between

the workman and the agent of the association.

Perhaps, in a remote village, a young workman

agrees that his labour shall be farmed out by the

association for so many years generally six. He

undertakes to go wherever the association sends

him, and to undertake work of any description,

and at any time. The association, on its part,



contracts to lodge, to clothe, to feed him, and
to maintain him in illness, or during unemploy-
ment, throughout six years. All this time he
receives neither wage or reward, but the associa-
tion engages, on the expiry of that period, to take
him back to his native village, and then and there
to pay him a stipulated amount in a lump sum.
Obviously the expenses of the association are con-
siderable ; obviously also the man, far from home
and dependent on the association, cannot take the
risk of incurring the suspicion of slackness, weak-
ness, or any kind of inefficiency that might enable
the association to repudiate its part of the bargain.
The result is that he is spent and spends himself
without mercy. It would not pay the association
to engage him for a longer term ; too often his
health and strength are broken at the end of six
years. But the scene changes when he is once
more with his family and receives his little fortune.
Thereafter he joins the ranks of the capitalists : he
can engage in trade ; perhaps he buys a sampan
certainly he buys his wife ; he becomes the father
of a family, and woe betide his competitors !

Thus, in joining one of these combinations, the
workman's very object is to equip himself for an
after-life of competition not, as in any Western
system, ancient or modern, to protect himself
against it. The contrast with the ancient Roman
system detailed by Professor Flinders Petrie is
indeed remarkable. Here is no State interference,
no compulsion to join, and no monopoly of a trade.
Not less remarkable is a comparison with the
modern Western system. There is no effort to


withhold labour ; the association acts as a gigantic
labour-exchange; men can be sent anywhere in
any required number, and the skilled man is kept
to his speciality. The employer contracts with
the association, not with the man or men, to pay
an agreed price for a certain work, and his dealings
with the men are indirect. Neither strike nor
lock-out can occur.

The severity of the social stress that obtains
in China is terrible. It is almost impossible to
read all the many works that have been published
on Chinese life, but we have met with none more
vivid or more to the point, nor one, so far as our
own knowledge goes, more accurate, than an article
in the Century Monthly Illustrated Magazine of
July 1911, written by Mr. Edward Als worth Ross,
Professor of Sociology in the University of Wis-
consin, under the title of " The Struggle for
Existence in China." Any one who is interested
in the actual life of the Chinese should read the
whole of his paper. From it we take the follow-
ing extracts :

"Most of the stock explanations of national
poverty throw no light on the condition of the
Chinese. They are not impoverished by the
niggardliness of the soil, for China is one of the
most bountiful seats occupied by man. Their
state is not the just recompense of sloth, for no
people is better broken to heavy, unremitting
toil. The trouble is not lack of intelligence in
their work, for they are skilful farmers and clever
in the arts and crafts. Nor have they been dragged
down into their pit of wolfish competition by waste-


ful vices. Opium-smoking and gambling do, in-
deed, ruin many a home, but it is certain that,
even for untainted families and communities, the
plane of living is far lower than in Western
countries. They are not the victims of the ra-
pacity of their rulers, for if their Government
does little for them, it exacts little. In good

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 10 12 13 14

Online LibraryArthur John HubbardThe fate of empires; being an inquiry into the stability of civilisation → online text (page 10 of 14)