THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF A SAVAGE.
IS there such a thing in the world as a true " savage," in the old and popular sense of the word,—that is, a" wild" man, a creature who follows impulse only, whose one business
is to obtain food, and who obeys no law except the promptinge of necessity P We who have read much upon the subject, caring much to discover what are the inherent, as distin- guished from the acquired, powers of the human mind, do not know where to look for such a man, unless it be among the few tribes which have been subjected for ages to persecution or chronic hunger, and so have lost the full command of
faculties they originally possessed. The Digger Indians of South California seem to be in that position, and one or two tribes of Nagas on the hill frontier of Chittagong, and even about them we should like to hear missionary opinion before we decide. The lowest Polynesians are capable of great self- control, as witness their implicit submission to the great law from which we have adopted the word " taboo," while the Australians, who fifty years ago were supposed to be almost animals, have been found to obey a rigorous tribal code and a system of laws about consanguinity so complicated and refined that it taxes European ingenuity to describe it. fully. No African tribes, except possibly Mr. Stanley's dwarf people, are without settled and unalterable laws which they obey; while the naked clans of the Amazon are described by the most careful explorers as in many respects small nations which, under favourable circumstances, might develop lives that even Europeans would pronounce civilised. Mr. Ins Thurn's savage friends in Guiana, who cannot distinguish between dreams and facts, and doubt if death ever happens naturally, are still subject to rules of their own which bind like moral laws, and so are the " wildest" races with which we have come in contact in India. The Andamanese, who when we discovered them seemed to be the lowest, and who lacked even certain instincts common to the rest of humanity, are probably the descendants of wrecked slaves debased by perpetual hunger; and the Veddahs of Ceylon, who were supposed never to laugh—a fallacy—have been hunted by their more advanced neighbours for generations, till they have relapsed into a half-animal condition. We suspect, if we could hear from himself his own ideas uttered without fear, we should find that the "wild" savage is the product of the imagination of civilised man, who cannot understand a human being who does not cultivate, but lives, as regards food, like a monkey, and who, in particular, does not compre- hend the charm of clothes or the necessity for them.
Read, for example, the very curious though sadly over-con- densed autobiography of a savage published in the July number of the Cornhill Magazine, and attested, as regarOR its authenticity, by a well-known British officer. It would be difficult to get below the original position of Ali Gifoon,. Major-Adjutant of the 12th Soudanese Battalion, whose proper name was Lwaldeed. All Gifoon, now an officer who, though he cannot read or write, is greatly respected by his superiors, was born a Shillook, and until he was twenty-one had never worn clothes. The Shillooks live on the White Nile, in the district of Fashoda, just north of the Bahr-el- Ghazal, and though the women wear a goat-skin round the waist the men wear absolutely nothing, the only exception being the Sheikh, who, for reasons apparently not of decency but of dignity, imports the Arab "fob" or cloak from Khar- toum. All other Shillooks plaster themselves with cow-dung as a protection against flies. The sole occupations of the men are elephant-hunting in the endless forest, not for profit but amusement, catching giraffes in nooses hung from the trees, and fishing, with occasional cattle-lifting, in which pursuit they kill or are killed, as fortune may dictate, with the easiest nonchalance. One would say you could hardly get nearer to pure savagery than that, or to the line, " When wild in woods the naked savage ran," yet when their life is described by one of themselves it is found to have many of the peremptory rules of civilisation, enforced by very strong sanctions indeed. The Shillooks, to begin with, were a nation with a chief, apparently "chosen," but always out of a single family, who had when Ali Gifoon was a boy reigned for forty years, and whose orders were implicitly obeyed. They lived as hunters and fishers, knowing all beasts and all the ways of the forest, and by stealing cattle from their neigh- bours, but it was a role among them, avowedly intended to preserve their cohesion for these raids, that there must be no quarrelling among themselves, and that theft from a brother tribesman must be punished with death. They were strictly monogamous, adultery, as we understand a rather ambiguous sentence, being also punished with death,
which, indeed, seems to have been the on'•y " sanction " for their more peremptory laws, as it is also in the un- civilised islands of the Pacific, and among almost all the Bantu tribes, to which the Zulus originally belonged. It is very curious, indeed, to note that although such tribes are in- different to death, which they permit to be inflicted as a mere -discipline, they still regard it as the most terrible of penalties, and, as Ali Gifoon narrates, tremble all over when the charge of an elephant or the bite of a hippopotamus brings them close to their dread enemy. The Shillooks even have a creed, about which we should have liked to hear a good deal more, for it is not without metaphysical subtlety. Indeed, if it is really a religion self-developed among naked savages, this autobio- graphy is a great addition to our knowledge of the genesis of ideas, but we should suspect, from its central tenet, that one of the Buddhist missionaries, of whom hundreds must, in the early days of that great creed, have wandered among all the brown peoples, had reached the valley of the White Nile, and had
41 converted " the Shillooks or their ancestors, who may have 'been more civilised than the present generation. At least nothing oan be less like either fetishism or Mahommedanism
than the religion of which Ali Gifoon gives the following -account. He is dictating, it must be remembered, not writing : —" Our religion was of the simplest. We only knew that we had been put in a country which we believed to be the finest in the world by some Power which we could neither see nor understand. Respect for the old was a marked feature in our constitution, and this led us on to believe that there was One,
who was oldest and wisest of all, who had originally placed us where we were. We thought of this Being as Father of our grandfathers, and called him Go-ok. We had no idea of
heaven or hell, but believed that when we died our bodies, having served their purpose, returned to nothing, while the spirits of the wisest and best, indefinitely commingling with those of the vast number of our fore-elders, became absorbed in the great Go-Ok, and helped to strengthen the ruling power of the Unknown. There was no prayer nor individual worship; but in each district there was one tukl, or conical-shaped hat, of better quality than the rest, where the cogyoor (priest) would commune with the Father Spirit when rain or fine weather or success in war was desired." No man of Ali Gifoon's type could have invented that creed, and to meet with nearly pure Buddhism amidst such a tribe and in such a locality is an occurrence of the strangest interest. Here we have, then, in a tribe of naked savages living in the farthest depths of Africa, all the rudiments of civilisation,—the tribal organisation, the habit of obedience, a formulated creed with a great abstract idea in it, and customs which, both as regards the possession of women and the internal law of brotherhood, involve severe self-restraint. The " wildness," except in the matter of clothes, is, in fact, non- .existent.
Ali Gifoon had grave troubles, ending in high good-fortune. The Baggaras, who are now fighting us for Dongola, grew irritated at the Shillook raids, attacked the tribe, and, among others, captured Lwaldeed, now Ali Gifoon. Their mode of treating him is an illustration of the ways of a region and a -people almost too distant from us to be comprehensible. One would think it would pay to treat a slave decently, but this was Lwaldeed's fate :—
'Day after day I was urged along, wounded as I was, my head in a shelter, or wooden yoke, the other end of which was fastened to the hump of an ox. Whenever I lagged or showed signs of falling I was severely beaten with korbashes, and when we halted for the night I was bound in such a manner as to render sleep impossible. One night, when all were asleep, I managed to loosen my bonds, and, carrying the other end of my shelter in my hands in front of me, I fled for my life in the direction of my home. All that night I struggled on, wounded and broken as I was, until, having crossed a small river on my way and quenched my thirst, the sun rose. Never pausing, I pressed on, when suddenly I heard distant sounds behind me, and I knew the Baggara were on my track. Making for where the brushwood was thickest, I crawlel in and lay motionless, hoping against 'hope that I might not be found. But the horsemen followed my tracks with unerring accuracy, their task being rendered an easy one on account of rain having fallen during the night, and soon I was dragged from my hiding-place and beaten till I knew no more. When I recovered my senses, I was tel by my yoke to a horse's saddle The horse was urged into a gallop, and if I had fallen I should have broken my neck. This and the perpetual beating would very soon have ended my sorrows for ever, had not an old man, by name El Bokhari, inter- fered in my behalf, saying I was worth preserving alive, and that if they continued to treat me in this manner I should surely die.
So he had me loosed from the horse, and made me walk by his side, carrying the end of my yoke in my hands, until we reached the camp from which I had escaped. Here even the women cursed and beat me, but Bokhari rescued me again, making one of his own men responsible that I was not allowed out of his sight, lest I be beaten to death."
The pleasure of cruelty overcame all considerations of the value of a slave. Lwaldeed, however, survived, and being a strong, likely fellow, was paid to the Khedive as part of the Baggaras' tribute, was trained as a slave in the Egyptian
army, rose to be an officer, was sent to Mexico when the Khedive lent Napoleon III. a black regiment fit to stand the
malaria of the tierra caliente, became a Mahommedan, and finally, after some forty years of hot service, during which he became specially noted for his daring and his power of drill, rose to the most responsible position in the 12th Soudanese. His English Commandant, when fortune brought him one, actually trusted him to lecture to new recruits on their duties, and certainly no German or Russian officer could have described in clearer terms the creed of the disciplined soldier. " Never think of yourselves, we are all the servants of His Highness the Khedive. Every order given is issued with a view to the advancement of the interests of the service, and must be instantly and cheerfully obeyed. Hunger, thirst, fatigue, wounds, death, are all necessary incidents in a soldier's life. But kul meri (it is all for the Government), and every bugle-call must be obeyed alike. There are other battalions in the army, and other armies in the world, but every recruit must clearly understand that his fortune was indeed great when he was posted to the best of all battalions, the 12th Soudanese."
There is nothing in all this remarkable narrative more noteworthy than the effect of discipline in civilising the wildest savages. Ali Gifoon, once a naked savage covered with cow-dung, became in his uniform and under the severe discipline of his regiment a trusted officer, who was able to think for him-
self, and who in Mexico earned special commendation. There is, so far as we know, no exception to that experience. The negroes of Jamaica develop in the West Indian regiments
into citizens, and the Houssas of the West Coast of Africa— a place which morally is a sort of hell—become excellent armed constables, who can be trusted even without white officers to do almost any kind of duty. The Bheels in Western India, who are almost as savage as the Shillooks, become under military training excellent soldiers and police- men, so do the wildest Maories of New Zealand, and so also do the blacks of Australia, who are believed even by mis- sionaries to lack something of accumulative mental power. The Russian officers in corners of Siberia have experiences quite as convincing ; and, in fact, it would appear to be cer- tain that military discipline with its rigour and tinbendingness furnishes the best of all instruments for turning savages into men. It does not over-tax their brains, the usual error of the Europeans who undertake to teach the children of the forest, and it develops in them the power in which they are
most defective, self-control. "Yon ought" is, in fact, ex- changed for "You must," and the latter suits their mental habits better. They must wear clothes, they must obey officers, they must assemble to the bugle-call, and the con- stant obligation to obey produces the training effect for which
in Europe we rely mainly on the pressure of opinion. The truth is, that when severity produces no sense of injury or in- sult, severity trains, with a completeness, and, above all, with a speed, which the only alternative, lecturing, does not develop, and produces that clothing of habit upon which Carlyle used to dilate, and upon which so much of civilisation depends.
We are not sure that if in Africa we could pass the whole
population for three years through the military mill, we should not civilise the tribes much more than we shall by our present system, while we certainly should do the work a great deal quicker. The difference between Lwaldeed the naked Shillook and Ali Giffoon the Major-Adjutant is nearly, if not quite, the whole difference between an uncivilised and r civilised man, and it was produced entirely by discipline, which, while the army belonged to the Khedive, was not, we may rely on it, over-lenient. The " beneficent whip " is probably never beneficent, but the Author of Nature seems to have decided that her rules would be more educative if they were unswerving. It is because a flame will scorch a saint as well as a sinner that we have learned to utilise flame.