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Home > Books > An Essay on Archery > Chapter I
Chapter I
An Essay on Archery.
Part 4 of 4

Similar atrocities have been common among the Scythians, the Egyptians, Chinefe, Indians, Peruvians and Arabs, in the whole continent of America, and in Africa; and though authentic record is not to be found of all thefe people being in the perpetual practice of eating human flefh, yet they are, or were all accuftomed to human facrifices.16 In Scythia, we are told by Herodotus, every hundredth man from their prifoners of war was offered to their God, Mars, A number of piles of wood were erected, and on the top of each an old Scymeter was fixed, as an emblem of the Deity, and to this the victim was facrificed.—Among the Egyptians this practice was common for ages.

In the Dict. Philofophique of Voltaire, we find, that that author had a converfation with fome of the cannibals brought from the Miffiffippi. He afked a Lady, one of them, if fhe had ever eaten men? and she anfwered him, "That
"it was better to eat a dead enemy, than
"let him be devoured by beafts; — that
"the conquerors deferved a preference."17

From thefe few inftances we may judge what were the cuftoms which once overfpread the different nations of the earth; —cuftoms which feem to mark the loweft point of human debafement, and add a deeper tinge to the bloody page of hiftory.

Among thofe people whofe manners I have endeavoured to fketch, the Bow was the principal weapon in ufe; and if we paufe a moment to confider the imperfection of that inftrument, we fhall have reafon to think the want of more powerful military fkill and arms, was one of the caufes which, in fome meafure, operated in keeping mankind in that low ftate of civilization, they appear to have been in, during a long period of time.

While all nations had nearly the fame weapons, numbers would have the advantage over the few, and this originally was, and is now the cafe among favage hords. But experience would prove the great effect of order and difcipline, and then the advantage in favour of a diforderly multitude, would be balanced by the fkill and order of a smaller number. A continual inequality, and other accidental advantages, would keep men, under thefe circumftances, in frequent wars; and until experience had taught the ufe of military manoeuvres, the victory muft have been fometimes on one fide, and fometimes on the other, as numbers or fortune determined.

Savages in early ages, we may fuppofe, were not always at war, they had not eftablifhed armies, but fought when provoked by their neighbours. This conduct produced frequent, but not inceffant battles, and, therefore, each party had an equal advantage by the practice of war, and neither would much excel the other in that art, by their greater experience. But in the courfe of a few ages, the fuccefs which attended fome armies, was purfued with vigour, and the love of victory became a paffion. It was the perpetual attention to military affairs, added to a continual habit of fighting, which gave Alexander the vaft and irrefiftable power he poffeffed, over thofe nations who surrounded them, and who were terrified at the grandeur of an arranged multitude. The fmall inteftine depradations and hoftilities, the latter had been witnefs to, prefented no fplendid appearances, and they fled with precipitation at the fight. The pleafure arifing from frequent victories, would prove a fufficient inducement to conquerors to proceed on new campaigns, till at length the idea of fixing a government, and defending it, would be introduced to mankind.

During thefe fcenes of confufion, how was it poffible for any fpark of fcience to kindle? It could not be, there was no fociety at peace—Mr. Hume has faid, " it is impoffible for the arts and fciences " to arife at firft among any people, unlefs that people enjoy the bleffing of a "free government;" he might have faid till "fecurity and eafe were eftablifhed." —Where a country is inhabited by discordant tribes, no free government can poffibly exift, becaufe none arc fecure in their poffeffions; and that fecurity and cafe, are favourable to the infant arts, may be concluded, in fome degree, from the confideration, that in many of the Iflands of the fouth feas, in which, by the conftrucion of nature, mankind muft be lefs liable to interruptions than on continents, the curious arts are brought to much higher perfection, than among any of the native inhabitants of America. On a continent, things muft be effentially different. A numerous hord indeed could enjoy a kind of fecurity, while it was furrounded only by others, fmaller in number, and detached from each other. But granting they where at peace, the largeft hord would be too narrow a fphere for the arts to arrive at any maturity in, as a fimiliarity of life and neceffities would confine the ingenuity to a fmall field of Invention. It was not, therefore, till armies had fubdued, and prudence fecured large poffeffions, that the arts flourished ; and this was effected, not by a miriad of Archers, but by the regular and experienced attack of difciplined troops, poffeffing more improved arms. The uncertain and fluctuating ftate of the world is well fupported by the teftimony of hiftory. We fee one founding a city or fettlement, and another fubverting it as foon as formed; and this ftate continued till, as before obferved, fome powers, by their fuperior force, were able to make their poffeffions durable; and at this period we may date the introduction of the more obvious arts.—During thefe conflicts, it was unfortunate for thofe who fell, but it was otherwife with thofe who furvived, becaufe they were taught in a fhort time, by the conqueror, the art of protecting themfelves from the attack of other powers, who before were their equals. They would imitate the arrangement of troops, and would introduce new arms, which before they were ignorant of.

Thus it is, that while a number of hords or nations poffefs the fame arms, and none more efficacious than the bow— at the fame time having that felfifh and incurious mind, which moft favage nations poffefs,—no large government can be eftablifhed, or can the arts arife;— neither can there be a hope of it, till, by war, (which is, to be fure, the moft expeditious,) or commerce, an intercourfe be opened with nations more improved; thereby, in procefs of time, imperceptibly acquiring improved manners.— But the true caufes which have produced thefe great events in the world are hidden; and, like the true fources of all that knowledge we derive from remote facts, are more and more concealed as time advances; which, like the dark cloud that overcafts the evening, fhuts up all beneath it in obfcurity.

The age in which undifciplined armies fought with the Bow, the Sword and Pike, occupies an extenfive period from the beginning of things. But notwithftanding fome additions which were made to the military armaments, no great improvements were made till the time of the Grecian warriors; and the formation of the Macedonian Phalanx may be looked upon as the firft grand aera of Tactics.18 This we fee did not take place till the minds of men were much enlightened, and when an idea of order was regarded by the army as one of the moft important advantages. The difpotion of troops prior to this was but feldom regular, and fometimes the confufion of a Northern torrent prevailed.

The introduction of artillery marks the laft, and moft extraordinary revolution in the hiftory of war; and has for ever erected a barrier, which will protect civilized, from the incurfions of barbarous nations.

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