thumbnail of Ways of mankind II; Laying down the law
Hide -
If this transcript has significant errors that should be corrected, let us know, so we can add it to FIX IT+
Ways of mankind. Laying down a program in the series ways of mankind presented out of the supervision of Walter Goetzman anthropologist of the University of California Los Angeles by the National Association of educational broadcasters a series designed to show how human beings live together in different times and places. Laying down the law is one of a series of six programs prepared to show you how the universal problems of law and justice are met by different people throughout the world. In this case a summing up of the major points in the development of long laying down long.
In every society there are rules by which men live their lives. Some are very far reaching some of very special. But all rules to tell them what to avoid and what to do. Keep to the right. No smoking Lights Out is 11 Thou shalt not cure. Children under 16 not admitted on unless accompanied by parents Trespassers will be prosecuted. No are some of the rules we meet as we go about our daily lives. There are thousands more. And every society has them. Though they may well differ from place to place in Africa the shanties say do not speak about your neighbor not even the truth. In India the high caste Hindus say and do not let a locust shadow fall across your food in North America. The Cheyenne Indians say a chief must forgive all injuries. In Australia the Iran to Aborigines say never eat your totem animal. Kangaroo men must not eat kangaroos.
And in the Arctic the Eskimos say just because you have borrowed a man's wife before is no reason for taking her without asking his permission. All these are rules of behavior. And there are thousands more. Some are quite like ours. Some of their are different. And some of these rules are only customs and some are laws. What is the difference. Well custom merges into law but very roughly. Laws are that customs or society usually insists on being kept if necessary by as much force as may be needed. For instance we usually shake hands with the right hand but nothing happens if we shake hands with the left. People are surprised but it is only a breach of custom.
On the other hand usually we drive on the right side of the road. If you drive on the left you will soon find out whether you are breaking a law or not unless you live in England. Or again take a man fully dressed take off his jacket. Who cares. Perhaps some restaurants take off his tie a few more restaurants care. Take off a shirt. Now he had better be careful unless he is on the beach. Custom is beginning to turn into law. Now take off his pants. That does it unless he's at home with the blinds drawn down nor steps in and will use as much force as is necessary. Police jails and the like to make him wear his pants again unless he wears a kilt. Roughly speaking then laws are those customs that the community thinks is sufficiently important that they usually must be enforced by some kind of power no matter how far in the background or as Francis Bacon delicately put it.
Judges also remember that Solomon's throne was supported by lions on both sides. Let them be lions about lions under the throne. Law is then found everywhere in every society and if laws are customs maintained by force then every society must have some way of enforcing its own laws. There are many ways of doing this. Listen to what the U ROCK Indians of Northern California say. We your rock have our rights. Fishing rights payments that have to be made when a man takes a wife and many things like that. But we have very very little government no chiefs no councils no elections no police nothing like that. A man looks after his own rights by standing up for himself and perhaps trying to get his family to help him. Among Us Iraq the enforcement of law lies in a man's own hands.
A number of societies have generally accepted laws and very little government. The euro AKA one the Ifugao of the Philippine Islands or another. And there are others besides On the other hand. Consider the Ashanti of the gold coast of West Africa. We do not like a man to take the law into his own hands. The knife rests in the king's hands and the king of Ashanti will be very cross if the enforcement of the law is infringed even by a powerful chief. Things must be settled in the public courts in the proper Ashanti way among us Ashanti the enforcement of law does not lie in a man's own hands. Most societies are somewhere between the one extreme of the your rock where a man nearly always enforces his own litigation and the Ashanti where he almost never does. But while we have spoken of law without much government can we
find government without much law. Perhaps the father of a family laying down his private judgments to the children is as near as we can get to the poet's ideal time who to himself is law. No law doesn't need offends no law and is a king indeed. But listen to Father laying down the law and see what we make of it. First nobody looks at TV until they finish their homework. Second nobody goes out more than two nights a week. Third everybody has to be in by 10 o'clock except on Saturday. Then you can stay out of 12 or so long as your mother and I know where you are. How about the car don't pay for your own gas out of your allowances. And if I find any careless driving you don't drive and you don't drive. If your mother I need the car. Apart from that come and ask me any of you and I'll be reasonable about it when I can. Afraid not Susan you're only 12 not old enough yet. Well there it is. I don't want any more fuss. I've laid down the law.
Lay down the law has a. Hold here. Now he's bound to stick to his own rules. Why the custom of the world we live in. And by the way I notice he lives in the modern North American world. He may have laid down the law like a king but the world he lives in has laid down the customs customs that unwritten law by which the people keep even kings in all. And what if he tried to give young Susan permission to use the car. It wouldn't matter she couldn't get a license. The law of the land is peering over his shoulder. However much you try. It's pretty hard to have a government without a law even if the law is just what one man thinks is right. Even he is a prisoner of history and geography. So much for the universality of the law and all its variety and so much for the universality of law enforcement in all its variety. Now we must
distinguish the different kinds of law that a society can have. We'll call them internal and external or internal law is the law of the relatively self-contained group. It's law that applies to a group that the group agrees to and that can be and usually is enforced within that group. All of which is easy when we think that father laying down the rules for the House is setting up a little system of internal law. First it applies to a group I don't care what the kids next door do they see what our kids are going to do. This is the way things are going to be in this family. Next the group agrees to this internal law. Ok dad I guess you're the doctor. Sure I am. So long as I pay the bills around here what I say goes. And don't you forget it. Ok dad OK. Your insults challenge. What about me. What that money do I take orders to. No I mean well don't you agree with what I've been saying. Oh yes I agree that's all right then.
Everybody agrees and finally this internal law can be and usually is enforced within the group. Yeah it is true that well Susan did you know much. What I was getting on with it. You know Daddy's ruined everything and I hate him and I'm going right. I can turn it on again. Susan go to your room please. I won't. I don't want to have to ask you again. But I think Daddy you know did you. That's your privilege but go and do it fast please. I am the internal law as we're calling it. A little example law for a group accepted by the group and forced only within the group. Father doesn't go up and down the neighborhood turning off the TV sets. Now when we talk about systems of law it's usually internal law that we
mean by the law the law the bottlers of Northern Rhodesia that's internal law. You know quite a law the law of the Indians of the Five Nations. That too is internal law. Five nations You mean the Six Nations Iroquois used to be called the five nation I know you got it wrong it was the Six Nations Seneca. And I don't know Onondaga Mohawk and Cuyahoga. And also Tuscarora Perhaps I can explain your trouble. Who are you. I am going to require of the old days. First we will have five nations. Then we were six nations or tribes as you might better call them the five tribes formed when a sort of Confederation. I suppose you might say we were under a kind of internal law all five of us. Suddenly the tribes that were our neighbors were not under the same law. We lived at enmity with them but at peace with one another. Then a new tribe came up from the south. We called them the Tuscaroras the people of the shirt and they pressed us so hard that something had to be done about them if we were not going to waste ourselves in endless warfare. There's a problem which you have if you
can't beat them join them. Well the Tuscaroras and the five nations paid attention to that proverb the Tuscaroras joined the League of the Iroquois. You know quite a lot from covering five tribes has expanded to cover six and the new lead came into being. So your internal law was expanded to cover six nations instead of five. Yes and No. If you want to think of our league as a group of nations covered by the cloak of internal law then you may do so but I must warn you that the cloak was thin and threadbare if that is the way you prefer to look at it. Then you must think of us as a league with a thin veneer of internal law covering all. And then when the Tuscaroras came this thin covering was spread a little further. Something's gone wrong. People had a great deal of law. Yes we have. But each tribe you see was largely self-governing. The law of the league only covered the whole group with respect to those things that everybody had in common. When men had to do with their neighbors then
it was the law of the league. Otherwise it was the law of the Mohawks. Well the Senecas or whoever it might be. So please remember if you want to think of the other quad as a league under the rule of internal law the backlog is really rather thin and sketchy. Though I will say this for it. It was flexible enough to allow me to expend without being destroyed. Now this is very interesting because the Iroquois are in between. They show if you like how internal law can sometimes be made to expand if the group that subscribes to it is made larger than the domain of that internal law expands but also the League of the Iroquois is if you like a half way house to what we might call external law external or external law is the law if any.
That covers two different and separate groups each presumably with its own internal law. Now these groups have come into contact in some way geographical expansion perhaps and external regulates the way they behave to each other. You say external law is the law if any. That covers two separate groups. What happens if there is no external law between two groups. Then there is few. That is the voice of a few. The bullet in the back. The knife in the ribs. The voice of might makes right. The plaintive. Who is his own judge and the defendant who is his own jury. If you do is the state of no law in the old days in Kentucky or in Sicily. Each family had internal law between families. Few You might say that the Euro law every man for himself is nothing but institutionalized FUD. What do you mean by institutionalized FUD. You would have soon found out if you'd had a call in the old days over what way was that
northern Luzon in the Philippines. We had a way of settling disputes with a go between but just in case anything went wrong. The quarreling men always sharpened up their spear blades and got their weapons ready and their family stood behind them too so that although we had plenty of law and even a special way of trying to reach a settlement in the background there were always the spears. This is institutionalized feud. There is law and a way of settling disputes but in the background there. Always the Spears might makes right does not exactly form the court but you might say that it forms the Court of Appeal. Trial by combat. Would that be institutionalized. It would indeed. There is bloodshed to be sure. And the quarrel is settled by fighting. But there is to be just so much fighting and no more the violence is not to spread. The Eskimo too might almost be said to live in a state of institutionalized feud and sometimes the state a feud might be between tribes as usually among the Australian
tribes. Or it may be between even larger groups of internal between nations for instance. There may be a state of feud. That also is the voice a few. No Might makes right of everyone for himself as the elephant said as he danced among the grasshoppers. The external law then is the law that replaces feud between two distinct groups for private matters. Each has its own internal law but where they touch they share external law. Think of that little family of ours whose internal All we heard about a few minutes ago Think of it now confronted with this kind of problem. Dad yeah Dad I'm getting a dollar a week alarms. I've
been talking around a bit that's not the going right take Jimmy Matthews next door he gets a dollar and a half you know sure what he's going to says his old man promised. I'm glad to hear it. So how about it. Prices are going up every day. A fella can't keep pace. You telling me. To do what I do. Make it retroactive. No. I'm going over to Dr. Jimmie Matthews father. Well that's the way the board tells it to me. My son isn't going to be getting a dollar and a half. I did think of giving him a bit more but not that much. Well that's reasonable. I suggest we get together and try and fix some sort of reasonable amount then the kids will be able to play one of us off against the other. Good idea. How about a dollar and a quarter. That's OK. And while we're at it what time does your boy have to be in at night. Well I'll tell you it varies. Usually I like to see a minute 10:30 but
some nights if there's something he wants to go to when I think it's OK well I'm willing to stretch it a bit. Well I suggest while we're at it we try and fix up some sort of agreement on the time they have to be in. I get sick to death of kids coming to me and telling me they've got to do things because they couldn't do them and I'm sure you feel the same. These two families are setting up a system of external law. They're coming to agreement on problems that they have in common. Notice that they don't have to become one family to do this nor does one family have the say over the private affairs of the other family. When mother wants a new hat she does not have to say I'd like a new heart. Is a better golden carriage with Mrs. Matthews. Of course not for mother's new hat has to do with the internal law of her own family. From this we see the general point of external law. Two societies each with its own internal law come into contact. If they cannot reach agreement there is a feud. Every time there's a dispute if they can reach agreement they will set up external law
to which both agree. External law will have nothing to do with the private affairs of the two groups. Nor do they have to unite themselves into one group in order to have the protection of external law. The analogy of the two families is pretty close. Take a case of a group of societies the didn't have much external law. You mean us right. The effort again of the Philippines. How does your tribe feel towards its neighbors. Terrible. Have you been listening to what those people have been saying. Pay no attention. I only listen to the people who live around here. You didn't visit neighboring tribes much only for headhunting offer us slavery. What do you think WE ARE YOU THINK we want to be killed. You see it was this way around each little group of the awful go. There is a safe place where no spears a throng. But if you go a little nearer the next group you come to the first danger zone. This is where Spears are thrown but usually thrown to mist. It's a warning you know straying off your home grounds get back where you belong. Past that of course is the real
danger zone. Where people throw spears to hit. And some of them were very good with a spear. It is something to think over. Was that twilight zone where Spears were thrown to miss. Was that the very beginning of a trace of external law. Could be good indeed. But external law is something that comes if it's going to come at all. When the groups begin to expand come into contact take an interest in one another. Sometimes it never comes. The cities of ancient Greece and of mediæval Italy wasted a great deal of their energy feuding with one another. They never did work out a decent system of external law so that they could govern themselves and at the same time live at peace with their neighbors. The Federation of the
United States worked it out but that was a political union. Also as was the Confederation of the Netherlands and the Swiss Confederation. But political union is not essential to external law. Consider the case of the Plains Indians of North America. We lived on the Great Plains for many hundreds of years we all lived separately. The Cheyenne the Kiowa was the Comanches the Sioux and all the others. Then the Spaniards brought us the horse. The horse was the ship of the plains. The great prairie instead of being an insurmountable a broad barrier became instead a gloriously wide road. We were able to travel wherever we wished Comanches in Oklahoma were able to make raids down as far as Mexico City so we could not live unless we lived by the law. Soon although each tribe ruled itself according to its own laws and customs. Yet the Plains Indians as a great group subscribe to certain principles. Sometimes they were not always kept. And it is true that was very often warfare between one tribe and the next. But the
horse brought us together and being together we began to see things in the same sort of way and began to lay down the foundation of external law. In just such a way as that the great expansion of the European nations called forth the genius of grossest the father of international law which as far as modern nations is concerned is external. What there is of it. Very often modern nations live in a state of institutionalized FUD. And as with the FAA go there is law and a way of settling disputes. But in the background there are always the spears in every society then there are certain rules of conduct. Some of these are customs the bridesmaid's corsages will of course be supplied by the GRU. There's laws in this part of the law. Nobody is allowed to marry more than one life at a time.
Being roughly speaking a rule which the society usually insists on being kept by force if necessary. But I as we say the strong arm of the law. Laws are found everywhere. They may be very different from place to place and so many ways of enforcing them. From the euro like Indians of California the enforcement of law lies in a man's own hands to the shanty of the Gold Coast of Africa. The knife is in the King's hand. The enforcement of law does not lie in a man's own hands. Finally we distinguish between internal law and external law. Internal law is the way our society rules itself. It is very nearly what we think of when we speak of national law and external law is what we think of when we speak of international law. And the absence of law is few. The rule of every man for himself. And the devil take the hindmost.
Those are the points that we have tried to make. Individuals families associations cities states and nations all have internal law. And all these are covered by external law regulating their various relations. All but one. The external law that governs between nations is very weak and often confused with political federation. Perhaps the great problem of the 20th century perhaps the great test of man's social ingenuity is going to be whether or not he can bring the nations to live peacefully by their own internal laws within their borders and among each other by the orderly system of external law.
Men everywhere have found it necessary to create some means for settling the differences that arise between them. Indeed only in so doing are societies formed the fulfillment of lifes more pleasant possibilities rests upon the regulations that govern the conduct between them. Regulations which may nevertheless hamper some of their freedom of action. This is true whether we speak of the family and its organization or the nation and its organization. It is true of primitive tribes of Africa Australia and the Americas as it is true of the great nations of Europe and Asia from which we derive our civilization. The broad history of law and justice in human society seems to me to rest upon two major developments. First a tendency to shift from the law of FUD to constituted authority. Second the expansion of the scope of authority as man has mastered his environment through progressive technical knowledge. The earth has shrunk beneath him and wider areas are brought into
close in continuous contact. Thus man has had to expand the scope of law either by increasing the area covered by internal authority or by developing the uses of external law. Sometimes as a man we primitive if we got out of the Philippines or the city states of ancient Greece jealousies and rivalries have prevented such expansion. Men husband their powers in fear outside authorities. But these fears and jealousies lead to feudal warfare. Now our world shrinks ever more rapidly and the need for broadening the scope of law becomes more insistent. Hence treaties world courts United Nations. But just as there are individual losses of freedom for the benefit of social life there will be limitations on sovereignty if we are to have World Order just as we can see the weakening effect of the rule of feud among the primitive and the rule of war in ancient Greece. So too can we recognise the destructive effects
even the institutionalized feud of modern international affairs. Primitive man as such as the Iroquois found means far uniting their interests without loss of basic individual freedom. Perhaps we also can find a means of developing a limited internal authority between nations so that we can settle disputes without feeling that in the background there are always our powerful Spears. Dr. Walter Goldsmid of the department of anthropology and sociology of the University of California Los Angeles. Has concluded laying down the law. A program in the series ways of mankind laying down the law one of six programs prepared to show you how the universal problems of law and justice are met by different people throughout the world. It was written by Lester Sinclair with music composed and conducted by me and produced by Andrew Allen in the studios of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation Toronto. Dr. Adams unhopeful professor of
Ways of mankind II
Laying down the law
Producing Organization
Canadian Broadcasting Corporation
National Association of Educational Broadcasters
Contributing Organization
University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
If you have more information about this item than what is given here, or if you have concerns about this record, we want to know! Contact us, indicating the AAPB ID (cpb-aacip/500-fn10t362).
This program, "Laying Down the Law," summarizes this portion of the series, which focused on laws and justice in different communities of the world.
This series is an exploration into the origin and development of cultures, customs and folkways in various parts of the world. The second series of Ways Of Mankind is concerned with a specific subject area and with two specific cultures.
Legal authorities.
Media type
Embed Code
Copy and paste this HTML to include AAPB content on your blog or webpage.
Funder: Fund for Adult Education (U.S.)
Producer: Allan, Andrew, 1907-1974
Producing Organization: Canadian Broadcasting Corporation
Producing Organization: National Association of Educational Broadcasters
Speaker: Sarrel, Philip M., 1937-
Writer: Sinclair, Lister
AAPB Contributor Holdings
University of Maryland
Identifier: 53-36-6 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
Duration: 00:29:05
If you have a copy of this asset and would like us to add it to our catalog, please contact us.
Chicago: “Ways of mankind II; Laying down the law,” 1964-04-15, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed September 20, 2021,
MLA: “Ways of mankind II; Laying down the law.” 1964-04-15. University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. September 20, 2021. <>.
APA: Ways of mankind II; Laying down the law. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from