Gateway to the Classics: Genghis Khan by Jacob Abbott
Genghis Khan by  Jacob Abbott

Establishment of the Empire

T HERE was now a vast extent of country, comprising a very large portion of the interior of the Asiatic Continent, and, indeed, an immense number of wealthy, powerful hordes, under Temujin's dominion, and he at once resolved to consolidate his dominion by organizing a regular imperial government over the whole. There were a few more battles to be fought in order to subdue certain khans who still resisted, and some cities to be taken. But these victories were soon obtained, and, in a very short time after the great battle with Tayian, Temujin found himself the undisputed master of what to him was almost the whole known world. All open opposition to his rule had wholly disappeared, and nothing now remained for him to do but to perfect the organization of his army, to enact his code of laws, to determine upon his capital, and to inaugurate generally a system of civil government such as is required for the management of the internal affairs of a great empire.

Temujin determined upon making Karakorom his capital. He accordingly proceeded to that city at the head of his troops, and entered it in great state. Here he established a very brilliant court, and during all the following winter, while he was occupied with the preliminary arrangements for the organization and consolidation of his empire, there came to him there a continual succession of embassadors from the various nations and tribes of central Asia to congratulate him on his victories, and to offer the allegiance or the alliance of the khans which they respectively represented. These embassadors all came attended by troops of horsemen splendidly dressed and fully armed, and the gayety and magnificence of the scenes which were witnessed in Karakorom during the winter surpassed all that had ever been seen there before.

In the mean time, while the attention of the masses of the people was occupied and amused by these parades, Temujin was revolving in his mind the form of constitution which he should establish for his empire, and the system of laws by which his people should be governed. He conferred privately with some of his ablest counselors on this subject, and caused a system of government and a code of laws to be drawn up by secretaries. The details of these proposed enactments were discussed in the privy council, and, when the whole had been well digested and matured, Temujin, early in the spring, sent out a summons, calling upon all the great princes and khans throughout his dominions to assemble at an appointed day, in order that he might lay his proposed system before them.

Temujin determined to make his government a sort of elective monarchy. The grand khan was to be chosen by the votes of all the other khans, who were to be assembled in a general convocation for this purpose whenever a new khan was to be installed. Any person who should cause himself to be proclaimed grand khan, or who should in any other way attempt to assume the supreme authority without having been duly elected by the other khans, was to suffer death.

The country was divided into provinces, over each of which a subordinate khan ruled as governor. These governors were, however, to be strictly responsible to the grand khan. Whenever summoned by the grand khan they were required to repair at once to the capital, there to render an account of their administration, and to answer any charges which had been made against them. Whenever any serious case of disobedience or maladministration was proved against them they were to suffer death.

Temujin remodeled and reorganized the army on the same or similar principles. The men were divided into companies of about one hundred men each, and every ten of these companies was formed into a regiment, which, of course, contained about a thousand men. The regiments were formed into larger bodies of about ten thousand each. Officers were appointed, of all the various necessary grades, to command these troops, and arrangements were made for having supplies of arms and ammunition provided and stored in magazines under the care of the officers, ready to be distributed to the men whenever they should require.

Temujin also made provision for the building of cities and palaces, the making of roads, and the construction of fortifications, by ordaining that all the people should work one day in every week on these public works whenever required.

Although the country over which this new government was to be established was now at peace, Temujin was very desirous that the people should not lose the martial spirit which had thus far characterized them. He made laws to encourage and regulate hunting, especially the hunting of wild beasts among the mountains; and subsequently he organized many hunting excursions himself; in connection with the lords of his court and the other great chieftains, in order to awaken an interest in the dangers and excitements of the chase among all the khans. He also often employed bodies of troops in these expeditions, which he considered as a sort of substitute for war.

He required that none of the natives of the country should be employed as servants, or allowed to perform any menial duties whatever. For these purposes the people were required to depend on captives taken in war and enslaved. One reason why he made this rule was to stimulate the people on the frontiers to make hostile excursions among their neighbors, in order to supply themselves and the country generally with slaves.

The right of property in the slaves thus taken was very strictly guarded, and very severe laws were made to enforce it. It was forbidden, on pain of death, to harbor a slave, or give him meat or drink, clothing or shelter, without permission from his master. The penalty was death, too, if a person meeting a fugitive slave neglected to seize and secure him, and deliver him to his master.

Every man could marry as many wives as he pleased, and his female slaves were all, by law, entirely at his disposal to be made concubines.

There was one very curious arrangement, which grew out of the great importance which, as we have already seen, was attached to the ties of relationship and family connection among these pastoral nations. Two families could bind themselves together and make themselves legally one, in respect to the connection, by a fictitious marriage arranged between children no longer living. In such a case the contracts were regularly made, just as if the children were still alive, and the ceremonies were all duly performed. After this the two families were held to be legally allied, and they were bound to each other by all the obligations which would have arisen in the case of a real marriage. This custom is said to be continued among some of the Tartar nations to the present day. The people think, it is said, that such a wedding ceremony, duly solemnized by the parents of children who are dead, takes effect upon the subjects of it in the world of spirits, and that thus their union, though arranged and consecrated on earth, is confirmed and consummated in heaven.

Besides these peculiar and special enactments, there were the ordinary laws against robbery, theft, murder, adultery, and false witness. The penalties for these offenses were generally severe. The punishment for stealing cattle was death. For petty thefts the criminal was to be beaten with a stick, the number of the blows being proportioned to the nature and aggravation of the offense. He could, however, if he had the means, buy himself off from this punishment by paying nine times the value of the thing stolen.

In respect to religion, the constitution which Temujin made declared that there was but one God, the creator of heaven and earth, and it acknowledged him as the supreme ruler and governor of all mankind, the being "who alone gives life and death, riches and poverty, who grants and denies whatever he pleases, and exercises over all things an absolute power." This one fundamental article of faith was all that was required. For the rest, Temujin left the various nations and tribes throughout his dominions to adopt such modes of worship and to celebrate such religious rites as they severally preferred, and forbade that any one should be disturbed or molested in any way on account of his religion, whatever form it might assume.

At length the time arrived for the grand assembly of the khans to be convened. The meeting was called, not at Karakorom, the capital, but at a central spot in the interior of the country, called Dilon Ildak. Such a spot was much more convenient than any town or city would have been for the place of meeting, on account of the great troops of horses and the herds of animals by which the khans were always accompanied in all their expeditions, and which made it necessary that, whenever any considerable number of them were to be convened, the place chosen should be suitable for a grand encampment, with extensive and fertile pasture-grounds extending all around.

As the several khans came in, each at the head of his own troop of retainers and followers, they severally chose their ground, pitched their tents, and turned their herds of horses, sheep, and oxen out to pasture on the plains. Thus, in the course of a few days, the whole country in every direction became dotted with villages of tents, among which groups of horsemen were now and then to be seen galloping to and fro, and small herds of cattle, each under the care of herdsmen and slaves, moved slowly, cropping the grass as they advanced along the hill-sides and through the valleys.

At length, when all had assembled, a spot was selected in the centre of the encampment for the performance of the ceremonies. A raised seat was prepared for Temujin in a situation suitable to enable him to address the assembly from it. Before and around this the various khans and their attendants and followers gathered, and Temujin made them an oration, in which he explained the circumstances under which they had come together, and announced to them his plans and intentions in respect to the future. He stated to them that, in consequence of the victories which he had gained through their co-operation and assistance, the foundation of a great empire had been laid, and that he had now called them together in order that they might join with him in organizing the requisite government for such a dominion, and in electing a prince or sovereign to rule over it. He called upon them first to proceed to the election of this ruler.

The khans accordingly proceeded to the election. This was, in fact, only a form, for Temujin himself was, of course, to be chosen. The election was, however, made, and one of the oldest and most venerable of the khans was commissioned to announce the result. He came forward with great solemnity, and, in the presence of the whole assembly, declared that the choice had fallen upon Temujin. He then made an address to Temujin himself, who was seated during this part of the ceremony upon a carpet of black felt spread upon the ground. In the address the khan reminded Temujin that the exalted authority with which he was now invested came from God, and that to God he was responsible for the right exercise of his power. If he governed his subjects well, God, he said, would render his reign prosperous and happy; but if, on the other hand, he abused his power, he would come to a miserable end.

After the conclusion of the address, seven of the khans, who had been designated for this purpose, came and lifted Temujin up and bore him away to a throne which had been set up for him in the midst of the assembly, where all the khans, and their various bodies of attendants, came and offered him their homage.

Among others there came a certain old prophet, named Kokza, who was held in great veneration by all the people on account of his supposed inspiration and the austere life which he led. He used to go very thinly clad, and with his feet bare summer and winter, and it was supposed that his power of enduring the exposures to which he was thus subject was something miraculous and divine. He had received accordingly from the people a name which signified the image of God, and he was every where looked upon as inspired. He said, moreover, that a white horse came to him from time to time and carried him up to heaven, where he conversed face to face with God, and received the revelations which he was commissioned to make to men. All this the people fully believed. The man may have been an impostor, or he may have been insane. Oftentimes, in such cases, the inspiration which the person supposes he is the subject of arises from a certain spiritual exaltation, which, though it does not wholly unfit him for the ordinary avocations and duties of life, still verges upon insanity, and often finally lapses into it entirely.

This old prophet advanced toward Temujin while he was seated on his carpet of felt, and made a solemn address to him in the hearing of all the assembled khans. He was charged, he said, with a message from heaven in respect to the kingdom and dominion of Temujin, which had been, he declared, ordained of God, and had now been established in fulfillment of the Divine will. He was commissioned, moreover, he said, to give to Temujin the style and title of Genghis Khan, and to declare that his kingdom should not only endure while he lived, but should descend to his posterity, from generation to generation, to the remotest times.

The people, on hearing this address, at once adopted the name which the prophet had given to their new ruler, and saluted Temujin with it in long and loud acclamations. It was thus that our hero received the name of Genghis Khan, which soon extended its fame through every part of Asia, and has since become so greatly renowned through all the world.

Temujin, or Genghis Khan, as we must now henceforth call him, having thus been proclaimed by the acclamations of the people under the new title with which the old prophet had invested him, sat upon his throne while his subjects came to render him their homage. First the khans themselves came up, and kneeled nine times before him, in token of their absolute and complete submission to his authority. After they had retired the people themselves came, and made their obeisance in the same manner. As they rose from their knees after the last prostration, they made the air resound once more with their shouts, crying "Long live great Genghis Khan!" in repeated and prolonged acclamations.

After this the new emperor made what might be called his inaugural address. The khans and their followers gathered once more before his throne while he delivered an oration to them, in which he thanked them for the honor which they had done him in raising him to the supreme power, and announced to them the principles by which he should be guided in the government of his empire. He promised to be just in his dealings with his subjects, and also to be merciful. He would defend them, he said, against all their enemies. He would do every thing in his power to promote their comfort and happiness. He would lead them to honor and glory, and would make their names known throughout the earth. He would deal impartially, too, with all the different tribes and hordes, and would treat the Monguls and the Tartars, the two great classes of his subjects, with equal favor.

When the speech was concluded Genghis Khan distributed presents to all the subordinate khans, both great and small. He also made magnificent entertainments, which were continued for several days. After thus spending some time in feasting and rejoicings, the khans one after another took their leave of the emperor, the great encampment was broken up, and the different tribes set out on their return to their several homes.

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