11 MAY 1929, Page 27

A Great Trilogy Ashanti Law and Constitution. By Captain R.

S. Rattray. (Clarendon Press. 25s.) ONCE again Captain Rattray has placed us heavily in his debt.

The present volume completes a great Ashanti trilogy and rounds off the material which he has already offered us in Ashanti and Religion and Art in Ashanti. To say that it is as interesting and valuable as its predecessors is to give it the

highest praise.

The centre of the social system in Ashanti " is not the King, or Chief, or Clan, or Tribe, or even the Individual ; it is the family," and Captain Rattray has here shown us the evolution

of the Ashanti State from the undivided household, and of the Asante Hene, or King, from the " House-master." The present- day position of the King and his chiefs is modelled on the simple, patriarchal pattern, and, despotic as the King may superficially appear, the checks and equipoises are so nicely adjusted that, in fact, the Constitution is essentially demo- cratic. Chiefs may have certain privileges, peculiar marriage rights, for instance, which, though probably once universal, have now become specialized ; but for the King, no less than for the " House-master," succession implies obligations rather than tangible assets. If in theory every individual is akoa, in i condition of subjection, to the King, the King himself is also alma to divinity, and his opinions and judgments are regarded

lot as emanating from his own mouth, but as being the incisions of his dead ancestors. The new regime, which the Battle of Feyiase inaugurated, was ever striving to make erritorial considerations, and not kinship, the basis of State carol ; but Ashanti society obstinately refused to abandon is old patriarchal habits. It has remained an aggregation of wits, each of which is the original family group, and decentra- ization had accordingly to be the dominant feature of its :!onstitution.

No attempt, indeed, to territorialize the Ashanti could ever lave been effective in view of their conception of real property.

And has no personal associations : it

Was once communally owned, but was seldom or ever visualized a the soil of which it was composed ; it was regarded rather as an rea of the world's surface over which mankind might roam for food, ri which the intrusion of non-tribesmen would be resented, and if

he actual soil .or .earth were thought. of. at All.- it 3'10414n. fisittrie.tiQn Pith Wdeity with whom it was personified or to wkom it belonged."

- The advent of agriculture did not change the basicprinciPles

Whferii: bra'pieviosisIy observed as a hunting coral'. munity. The right to use the whole land on a tribal basih became a right to use parts of it on a family, and finally on an individual, basis. But this conferred no rights in the land

as such, but only in its usufruct. " Take the land and eat upon it," was the legal formula, and land could only he occupied, if actually used, and could never be alienated.

Captain Rattray has not been content to tell us how the Ashanti Constitution becaine 'what it is and how Ashanti laws are inevitably what they are : he has also pointed it practical moral of the greatest importance. He has told us what is happening to the Ashanti as the result of contact

with European culture, and has-suggested how the dangers a this contact may be minimized. We may not agree with all his views, but they all deserve our most earnest consideration. He refers, for instance, to

" Chiefs, who seem toregard their position as rulers as conferring o, status from which they may possibly derive personal or pecuniarb. advantage, while formerly the reverse might possibly be the case .t!

This is lamentably true, not only of the Ashanti, but of nearly,

every tribe which has come into intimate contact with the individualistic ideas of European culture ; and though Captain Rattray recommends, very naturally, that modern laws should be framed in accordance with the basic elements of the old Constitution, he is forced to add that " these new measures may not conform to the letter of the old Native Laws; if free play is to be granted to modern advancement and Progress."

This is very much like telling us to

". . . . commit

The oldest sins the newest kind of ways."