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INSTINCT AS A FACTOR OF POLITICAL ORGANIZATION.
An error in much political writing is the overestimation of intelligence and the underestimation of instinct. This appears with prominence in the writings of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries; in those of Grotius, Hobbes, Spinoza, Puffendorf, Locke, Rousseau, in all, in fact, where the origin of government is explained by the hypothesis of a social contract; for this hypothesis involves the idea of intelligent beings, in the earliest stages of history, consciously and deliberately setting about the construction of a government. The influence of this contract theory on political thought lingers even to this day, though in a constantly diminishing degree. At present it may be considered as having generally given · place to the view first advanced by Aristotle, which is, in brief, that man is by nature a political being, and that government is a result of social growth, and is, moreover, a necessary condition of human existence. Accepting this position, we have to consider the method and forces of this growth. Among the purely human forces we find intelligence and instinct. It is with the latter that we have here mainly to do, and especially to point out the nature and extent of its operation in the field of politics.
Instinct has been defined in a general way as “a generic term, comprising all those faculties of mind which lead to the conscious performance of actions that are adaptive in character, but pursued without necessary knowledge of
the relation between the means employed and the ends attained.” It may, therefore, be well illustrated by contrasting it with intelligence. “Intelligence," says Prof. Joseph Le Conte, in substance, “works by experience, and is wholly dependent on individual experience for the wisdom of its actions ; while instinct, on the other hand, is wholly independent of individual experience. If we regard instinct in the light of intelligence, then it is not individual intelligence but cosmic intelligence, or the laws of nature working through inherited brain structure to produce wise results. Intelligence belongs to the individual, and is therefore variable, that is, different in different individuals, and also improvable in the life of the individual by experience. Instinct belongs to the species, and is therefore the same in all individuals, and unimprovable with age and experience. Whatever difference in the skill of individuals or improvement with age is observed, must be accredited to the intelligence of the individual, not to the inherited element. In a word, intelligent conduct is self-determined and becomes wise by individual experience. Instinctive conduct is predetermined in wisdom by brain structure. The former is free; the latter is, to a large extent, automatic." *
As to the origin of instinct, it can hardly be said that any theory has as yet gained universal assent, but no hypothesis appears more worthy of acceptance than that which regards it as habit grown to be hereditary. An act frequently performed in the consciousness of a specific purpose may continue to be performed, through the determinative force of structure, after the consciousness of the purpose of the act has been lost. When this peculiarity of structure, or the mental bias caused by the frequent and continued exercise of the mind in a given
* Popular Science Monthly for October, 1875.
direction, has become hereditary, the habit has grown into an instinct.
As we descend in the scale of animal life, we find that the ratio of the instinctive to the intelligent acts of the several individuals continually increases, -that is, the actions of animals of any lower order are more nearly exclusively instinctive than those of animals of any higher order ; but it does not follow from this that there are absolutely more and higher manifestations of instinct in mollusks than in man; only that relatively to the whole of the actions of the mollusks the instinctive form a larger part than is the case in man. “ Intelligence and instinct are not mutually exclusive, as some seem to suppose ; the one is not simply a characteristic of man and the other of animals, but they coexist in varying relative proportions throughout the animal kingdom."* In the sum of human actions, therefore, we may expect to find a large number that are purely instinctive in character. Important among the acts of this class are those which bear on the political organization of society.
The long continuance of a people under any given political order engenders a habit of political thought and action which ripens into a political instinct, and becomes powerful in determining the form of institutions and the direction of political progress. In the early stages of political life changes are less frequent than in the later stages; and opportunity is thereby offered for the ideas of social organization peculiar to primitive times to impress themselves upon the mind, and in the course of centuries of political monotony, to ripen into a firmly fixed instinct. Thus the political instincts of a race have their origin in a pre-historic age, in an age when generation after genera
* Prof. Joseph Le Conte in Popular Science Monthly, October, 1875.
tion passes away, leaving no record of change in social forms, or of the acquisition of new ideas. And it is this political instinct that must be taken account of if we would fully understand later political progress; it is in its force and persistence that we discern the main cause of that tendency displayed in kindred nations to preserve in their governments the essential features of the primitive political institutions of the race to which they belong.
One of the most striking results of the influence of a political instinct common to the Western nations is to be found in the analogies which may be observed between the political institutions of the different states, taken in connection with the fact that their common features are at the same time the characteristic features of the primitive Aryan government. In speaking of the early institutions of the Aryans, Freeman says: “ The first glimpse which we can get of the forms of government in the early days of kindred nations shows them to have been wonderfully like one another. Alike among the old Greeks, the old Italians, and the old Germans, there was a king or chief with limited power, there was a smaller council of nobles or of old men, and a general assembly of the whole
of which its present constitution has grown step by step. But there is no reason to think that this was at all peculiar to England, or even peculiar to those nations who are most nearly akin to the English. There is every reason to believe that this form of government, in which every man had a place, though some had a greater place than others, was really one of the possessions which we have in common with the whole Aryan family." * This appears, then, as the type of the Aryan government. The existence of a strong political instinct would lead us to
*“General Sketch of History," p. 6.
expect to find this type perpetuated in the later history of the race, and, in fact, we find that its essential features have been maintained in many governments. Wherever variations from the type have occurred, they have been either the result of a more complete development, and carrying out of the hereditary scheme, or due to influences, like, for example, that of the church, foreign to the hereditary traditions of the nation in question. One of the prominent characteristic features of this typical or primitive government is the co-existence of three elements: 1, the national chief with limited authority; 2, the council, coinprising men of distinguished birth, or of extraordinary experience and wisdom ; 3, the assembly of the people, in which the several individuals comprising the people act either immediately or through their representatives.
With a very few exceptions, every sovereign and subordinate state of the Aryan race is marked by the prominent characteristics of the primitive Aryan government.
This fact, taken by itself, does not appear of great significance. When, however, it is remembered that this peculiar organization of the central government is almost exclusively confined to Aryan states, and to states in which the Aryan influence predominates, and that among these states it is virtually universal, there appears to be something more than a mere coincidence. This view is further confirmed by the essential similarity between the modern governments of the Aryan race and that which has been pointed out as the primitive and typical government; and this indicates, in the race, an inborn force leading it to resist foreign influences, and seek the realization of its primitive ideals.
The fact of a striking similarity between the governments at present existing and the old Aryan government