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men we have known were theoretical admirers of monogamy, and one practised it. At the time Jesus Christ lived, and still later, in Mahomet's time, there was no law of monogamy. Mahomet limited the number of wives to four, and after a time, Europeans instituted monogamy by law, not from religious motives but from conviction of its expediency, considering that the plurality of wives was unfair to women, and gave rise to jealousy and murder and constant trouble.” The religion of Buddha highly commends a life of chastity: it also censures polygamy as involving ignorance and lust, but does not absolutely forbid it, the reason being that “Buddha could not say there was any actual wrong in a man having a number of wives properly acquired !” He also said that when a man could not remain a celibate and took but one wife, it was a kind of chastity, and commendable. It is remarkable how these founders of Oriental systems of religion refrained from boldly attacking the hideous social plague which prevailed around them; nay, some of them, Mahomet in particular, encouraged the evil both by practice and precept.
In Siamese households, it appears that one of the wives is recognized as the head wife, and to her belongs the supervision of the establishment, even to providing for the wants and comforts of her rivals, her husband's other wives. The head wife of the prime minister is described by Mrs. Leonowens as being kind to the younger women of her husband's harem, manifesting a most amiable interest in their welfare, and living among them happily as a mother among her daughters, sharing their confidences and often pleading their cause with her lord and tbeirs, over whom she exercised a rery cautious but positive influence. This interesting lady was, however, between forty and fifty years of age, and evidently had worldly wisdom enough to nnderstand that she could no longer compete in charms with the youthful beauties of the harem ; so she made the best of the situation by attending to their comfort.
It does not follow, however, that the woman who is the man's first wife is always his head wife. The lady just described was the prime minister's second wife.
And hence, perhaps, it is that in Siam there is no such personage as an heir
apparent to the throne, in the definite meaning and positive value which attaches to that phrase in Europe—no prince with an absolute and exclusive title by birth, adoption, or nomination to succeed to the crown. And though it is true that the eldest son of a Siamese sovereign by his qneen or queen consort is recognized by all custom, ancient and modern, as the probable successor to the high seat of his royal sire, he cannot be said to have a clear and indefeasible right to it, because the question of his succession has yet to be decided by the electing voice of the Senabawdee, or grand council of princes and nobles, in whose judgment he may be ineligible, by reason of certain physical, mental, or moral disabilities, as extreme youth, effeminacy, imbecility, intemperarice, profligacy, or the like. Nevertheless, the election is popularly expected to result in the choice of the eldest son of the queen or first wife, even if a regency should be necessary on account of his youth. The present king was only sixteen on his father's death, but the council elected him to assume the reins of government "notwithstanding his juvenility.” He is described as being a conscientious and gentle boy, affectionate to his relatives, and
generous and sympathetic towards the poor. IIe is now twenty years of age.
As regards the king and his queen or queens, the rule seems to be to select a lady expressly to be “the queen,' and the wedding is attended with some very curious ceremonies. A Siamese king may have two “queens” at the same time; in which case the more favored lady is styled “the right hand" and the other the left land” of the throne. The late king had two, but not in conjunction. The first was of the right hand; the second, though chosen in the lifetime of the first, was not elevated to the throne until after the death of her predecessor. But the royal harem holds other wives and concubines, who do not appear in state.
One of the most extraordinary institutions of Siam is that of subordinate kingship, and it is not very easy to define its nature. The second king is elected by the grand council of princes and nobles, with the consent of the supreme king. The person chosen to fill the office is always one of the royal family, and is generally a son or brother of the reigning sovereign. He is allowed a palace and retinue, and he has the privilege--which is something in Oriental eyes--of being exempt from the customary prostrations before the first king, whom he may salute by simply raising his hands and joining them above his head. But he has to appear before him twice a year to renew his oath of allegiance. His functions are of the most indefinite kind. They are in fact such as may be confided to him by the supreme king, and he may be deprived of them at any moment. It depends on the affection which his supreme relative may bear towards him, and the opinion that personage may entertain of his abilities and his honor, whether his share in the government shall be important or insignificant.
With Oriental rulers suspicion and jealousy of their kindred have ever been predominant feelings. Unscrupulous in the means employed to attain their ends, they place no faith in anybody. The Siamese sovereigns have been no exception to the rule, though the present young king may prove one, as he has been educated under exceptional advantages. The late king, his father, procured the appointment of his own full elder brother, by the same mother, as second king; but as the latter was of an ardent and aspiring mind, and a very accomplished, handsome and popular man, the supreme king became very jealous of him, caused him to be continually watched, and forbade his marrying the woman he loved best in the land, because she was a famous beauty, and a princess of the first rank; moreover, the supreme king wanted her himself. Finally the king quarrelled with him openly, and, not long afterward, the latter sickened and died, being unaware up to the last moment that his death had been caused by slow poison, administered systematically by one of his own concubines. Whether the king, Maha Mongkut, had any hand in the murder is not certainly known, though strongly suspected. He wrote and published a long account of his brother's death, but in it he carefully concealed from the public the true cause of the calamity, fearing the foreign populace, and most of all the Laotians and the Peguans who were devoted to the prince, and might fix suspicion on himself, on the ground of his notorious jealousy of the second king. What followed was characteristic of the genuine Oriental despot. The royal physicians and the
supreme council were sworn to secresy, the concubine and her female accomplice, together with nine female slaves, were tortured and publicly paraded through the environs of Bangkok, though their crime was never openly named. They were then thrown into an open boat, towed out into the Gulf of Siam, and there abandoned to the mercy of winds and waves or to death by starvation. One would think that Maha Mongkut would have proclaimed the nature of their crime if he wished their punishment to serve as an example. That he did not do so confirms the suspicion that he was privy to the murder of his brother.
In many respects Maha Mongkut was one of the most remarkable men of his age. In his private life he appears to great disadvantage ; for, in addition to this affair of his brother, he was envious, revengeful, subtle, suspicious, cruel, fickle and petulant. He was the terror of the palace, and would cause the women who displeased him to be beaten and tortured unmercifully. His one redeeming trait was his fondness for his children, especially for those whose mother had been agreeable to him. But there is much to admire in his public life. In the pursuit of his appointed ends he was active and pertinacious. We have already spoken of his learning and literary labors. In them, as in everything else, no trouble or pains wearied or deterred him. In early life he acquired some knowledge of Latin and the sciences from the Jesuits, but when the Protestants came, in 1820, he manifested a preference for their methods of instruction, and finally placed himself under the permanent tutorship of Rev. Mr. Caswell, an American missionary, under whom he made great progress in liberal ideas of government and commerce. But that he made any in Christianity may well be doubted, for although he professed respect for its fundamental principles, he declared that he hated the Bible. *
* The English Governess, p. 240.
His religious opinions are set forth in that remarkable work, written by his order and dictation, “ The Modern Buddhist," * whence we may glean his reasons for so disliking the Bible. Among them were his belief that any religion, conscientiously held and observed, would fit a man for everlasting happiness, and that therefore Christianity was not entitled to claim for itself the sole power of salvation. He also thought there was no heaven nor hell, and no judgment; but that our sufferings merely arose from our non-observance of the laws of nature. Perhaps his strongest objection to the Bible is given in his own words. “ He, as a Buddhist, might believe in the existence of a God, sublimed above all human qnalities and attributes, a perfect God, above love and hatred and jealousy, calmly resting in a quiet happiness that nothing could disturb, and of such a God he would speak no disparagement; not from desire to please him, or fear to offend him, but from natural veneration. But he could not understand a God with the attributes and qualities of men, a God who loves and hates and shows anger, a Deity who, whether described to him by Christian missionaries, or by Mahometans, or Brahmins, or Jews, fell below his standard of even an ordinary good man." +
Maha Mongkut, as high-priest of Siam, became the head of a school which professed strictly the pure philosophy of Buddha—that is to say, the law of compensation, many births or transmigrations, and the attainment of Niphan or final beatitude, but not Nihilism. He rejected the theory of an ever-active Creator, and of miraculous intervention, and he told the missionaries that they must not imagine that any of his party would ever become Christians, for they could not embrace what they considered a foolish religion. Nevertheless, on his accession to the throne (April, 1851), he'sent for the American missionaries, thanked them cordially for all they had taught him, assuring them that it was his earnest desire to administer his government after the model of the limited monarchy of England, and to introduce schools,