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AN HISTORICAL RETROSPECT.
THE first civilization on record is that of Hindostan, more familiarly known as India. Its origin is wrapped in fable, but the first dynasty may be traced to 3200 years before Christ. The date of the sacred books entitled the "Vedas " is put down at fifteen centuries before the same period. The "Institutes of Menu,” a compilation of moral and political laws, are said to have appeared some twelve centuries before the Christian era.
The most remarkable feature in this civilization is, that it remains to this day nearly what it was five thousand years ago: that is to say, the vast majority of the population now, as then, are sunk in poverty and slavery; whilst the Upper Classes monopolize all the wealth and power, political and social.
The singular duration of this ill-balanced system is due to causes not difficult to discover. Chief among these must be placed the climate of the country. The
heat makes the soil fertile, and food abundant and cheap. The excess of population, which is the natural result, produces an overstocked labor market, and makes wages so low as barely to sustain life.* The entire product of the industry of the masses, constituting the wealth of the country, is and has ever been, in the hands of the Upper Classes; and they, possessing the wealth, are able to engross all the knowledge, for wealth gives leisure, and leisure yields knowledge. Wealth and knowledge always command power, and thus it has come to pass that in India the Upper Classes are tyrants, and the people all slaves. This state of things, which owed its origin to physical causes, the laws and the religions of the country have from the remotest periods sought to perpetuate. The code attributed to Menu, already alluded to, rigidly forbids the people, under the cruellest penalties, to acquire knowledge. For instance, one of these native laws says "If, moved by the desire of instruction, any one listen to the reading of the sacred books, burning oil is to be poured into his ears. If, however, any one commit them to memory, he is to be killed." These and similar enactments are levelled especially at the Sudras-that is, the laboring population
The Sudras are estimated by various writers at three-fourths of the Hindoos. The remaining fourth is divided into three castes. The first consists of the priests and the learned, and from this class all the functionaries are taken; the second caste consists of
* It is beyond dispute that wages are determined by the supply of labor in the long run. Labor may sometimes increase, it is true, without affecting wages, but this can take place only up to a certain point. When labor becomes redundant, wages must fall.