G H I J K L M 

Total read books on site:
more than 10 000

You can read its for free!

Text on one page: Few Medium Many
Certainly, history cannot furnish the
answer. Here the anthropologist and physiologist come in with their
methods, and even those, we think, can throw but an uncertain light on
the very 'origin' of institutions, and on strictly primitive man.

For the purposes of this discussion, we shall here re-state the chief
points at issue between the adherents of Sir Henry Maine and of Mr.
M'Lennan, between historical and anthropological inquirers.

1. Did man _originally_ live in the patriarchal family, or did he live
in more or less modified promiscuity, with uncertainty of blood-ties,
and especially of male parentage?

2. Did circumstances and customs at some time compel or induce man
(whatever his _original_ condition) to resort to practices which made
paternity uncertain, and so caused kinship to be reckoned through

3. Granting that some races have been thus reduced to matriarchal
forms of the family--that is, to forms in which the woman is the
permanent recognised centre--is there any reason to suppose that the
stronger peoples, like the Aryans and the Semites, ever passed through
a stage of culture in which female, not male, kinship was chiefly
recognised, probably as a result of polyandry, of many husbands to one

On this third question, it will be necessary to produce much evidence
of very different sorts: evidence which, at best, can perhaps only
warrant an inference, or presumption, in favour of one or the other
opinion. For the moment, the impartial examination of testimony is
more important and practicable than the establishment of any theory.

(1) Did man _originally_ live in the patriarchal family, the male
being master of his female mate or mates, and of his children? On this
first point Sir Henry Maine, in his new volume,[206] may be said to
come as near proving his case as the nature and matter of the question
will permit. Bachofen, M'Lennan, and Morgan, all started from a
hypothetical state of more or less modified sexual promiscuity.
Bachofen's evidence (which may be referred to later) was based on a
great mass of legends, myths, and travellers' tales, chiefly about
early Aryan practices. He discovered _Hetärismus_, as he called it, or
promiscuity, among Lydians, Etruscans, Persians, Thracians, Cyrenian
nomads, Egyptians, Scythians, Troglodytes, Nasamones, and so forth.
Mr. M'Lennan's view is, perhaps, less absolutely stated than Sir Henry
Maine supposes. M'Lennan says[207] 'that there has been a stage in the
development of the human races, when there was no such appropriation
of women to particular men; when, in short, marriage, _as it exists
among civilised nations_, was not practised. Marriage, _in this
sense_, was yet undreamt of.' Mr. M'Lennan adds (pp. 130, 131), 'as
among other gregarious animals, the unions of the sexes were probably,
in the earliest times, loose, transitory, and, _in some degree_,

Sir Henry Maine opposes to Mr. M'Lennan's theory the statement of
Mr. Darwin: 'From all we know of the passions of all male
quadrupeds, promiscuous intercourse in a state of Nature is highly
improbable.'[208] On this first question, let us grant to Sir Henry
Maine, to Mr. Darwin, and to common-sense that if the very earliest
men were extremely animal in character, their unions while they
lasted were probably monogamous or polygamous. The sexual jealousy
of the male would secure that result, as it does among many other
animals. Let the first point, then, be scored to Sir Henry Maine:
let it be granted that if man was created perfect, he lived in the
monogamous family before the Fall: and that, if he was evolved as an
animal, the unchecked animal instincts would make for monogamy or
patriarchal polygamy in the strictly primitive family.

(2) Did circumstances and customs ever or anywhere compel or induce
man (whatever his original condition) to resort to practices which
made paternity uncertain, and so caused the absence of the patriarchal
family, kinship being reckoned through women? If this question be
answered in the affirmative, and if the sphere of action of the
various causes be made wide enough, it will not matter much to Mr.
M'Lennan's theory whether the strictly primitive family was
patriarchal or not. If there occurred a fall from the primitive
family, and if that fall was extremely general, affecting even the
Aryan race, Mr. M'Lennan's adherents will be amply satisfied. Their
object is to show that the family, even in the Aryan race, was
developed through a stage of loose savage connections. If that can be
shown, they do not care much about primitive man properly so called.
Sir Henry Maine admits, as a matter of fact, that among certain races,
in certain districts, circumstances have overridden the sexual
jealousy which secures the recognition of male parentage. Where women
have been few, and where poverty has been great, jealousy has been
suppressed, even in the Venice of the eighteenth century. Sir H. Maine
says: 'The usage' (that of polyandry--many husbands to a single wife)
'seems to me one which circumstances overpowering morality and decency
might at any time call into existence. It is known to have arisen in
the native Indian army.' The question now is, what are the
circumstances that overpower morality and decency, and so produce
polyandry, with its necessary consequences, when it is a recognised
institution--the absence of the patriarchal family, and the
recognition of kinship through women? Any circumstances which cause
great scarcity of women will conduce to those results. Mr. M'Lennan's
opinion was, that the chief cause of scarcity of women has been the
custom of female infanticide--of killing little girls as _bouches
inutiles_. Sir Henry Maine admits that 'the cause assigned by M'Lennan
is a _vera causa_--it is capable of producing the effects.'[209] Mr.
M'Lennan collected a very large mass of testimony to prove the wide
existence of this cause of paucity of women. Till that evidence is
published, I can only say that it was sufficient, in Mr. M'Lennan's
opinion, to demonstrate the wide prevalence of the factor which is
the mainspring of his whole system.[210] How frightfully female
infanticide has prevailed in India, every one may read in the official
reports of Col. M'Pherson, and other English authorities. Mr. Fison's
_Kamilaroi and Kurnai_ contains some notable, though not to my mind
convincing, arguments on the other side. Sir Henry Maine adduces
another cause of paucity of women: the wanderings of our race, and
expeditions across sea.[211] This cause would not, however, be
important enough to alter forms of kinship, where the invaders (like
the early English in Britain) found a population which they could
conquer and whose women they could appropriate.

Apart from any probable inferences that may be drawn from the presumed
practice of female infanticide, actual ascertained facts prove that
many races do not now live, or that recently they did not live, in the
patriarchal or modern family. They live, or did live, in polyandrous
associations. The Thibetans, the Nairs, the early inhabitants of
Britain (according to Cæsar), and many other races,[212] as well as
the inhabitants of the Marquesas Islands, and the Iroquois (according
to Lafitau), practise, or have practised, polyandry.

We now approach the third and really important problem--(3) Is there
any reason to suppose that the stronger peoples, like the Aryans and
the Semites, ever passed through a stage of culture in which female,
not male, kinship was chiefly recognised, probably as a result of

Now the nature of the evidence which affords a presumption that Aryans
have all passed through Australian institutions, such as polyandry, is
of extremely varied character. Much of it may undoubtedly be explained
away. But such strength as the evidence has (which we do not wish to
exaggerate) is derived from its convergence to one point--namely, the
anterior existence of polyandry and the matriarchal family among
Aryans before and after the dawn of real history.

For the sake of distinctness we may here number the heads of the
evidence bearing on this question. We have--

1. The evidence of inference from the form of capture in bridal

2. The evidence from exogamy: the law which forbids marriage between
persons of the same family name.

3. The evidence from totemism--that is, the derivation of the family
name and crest or badge, from some natural object, plant or
animal.[213] Persons bearing the name may not intermarry, nor, as a
rule, may they eat the object from which they derive their family name
and from which they claim to be descended.

4. The evidence from the _gens_ of Rome, or γένος of ancient Greece,
in connection with Totemism.

5. The evidence from myth and legend.

6. The evidence from direct historical statements as to the prevalence
of the matriarchal family, and inheritance through the maternal line.

To take these various testimonies in their order, let us begin with--

(1) The form of capture in bridal ceremonies. That this form survived
in Sparta, Crete, in Hindoo law, in the traditions of Ireland, in the
popular rustic customs of Wales, is not denied.

If we hold, with Mr. M'Lennan, that scarcity of women (produced by
female infanticide or otherwise) is the cause of the habit of
capturing wives, we may see, in survivals of this ceremony of capture
among Aryans, a proof of early scarcity of women, and of probable
polyandry. But an opponent may argue, like Mr. J. A. Farrer in
_Primitive Manners_, that the ceremony of capture is mainly a
concession to maiden modesty among early races. Here one may observe
that the girls of savage tribes are notoriously profligate and
immodest about illicit connections. Only honourable marriage brings a
blush to the cheek of these young persons. This is odd, but, in the
present state of the question, we cannot lean on the evidence of the
ceremony of capture. We cannot demonstrate that it is derived from a
time when paucity of women made capture of brides necessary. Thus
'honours are easy' in this first deal.

(2) The next indication is very curious, and requires much more
prolonged discussion.

Pages: | Prev | | 1 | | 2 | | 3 | | 4 | | 5 | | 6 | | 7 | | 8 | | 9 | | 10 | | 11 | | 12 | | 13 | | 14 | | 15 | | 16 | | 17 | | 18 | | 19 | | 20 | | 21 | | 22 | | 23 | | 24 | | 25 | | 26 | | 27 | | 28 | | 29 | | 30 | | 31 | | 32 | | 33 | | 34 | | 35 | | 36 | | 37 | | 38 | | 39 | | 40 | | 41 | | 42 | | 43 | | 44 | | 45 | | 46 | | 47 | | 48 | | 49 | | 50 | | Next |

U V W X Y Z 

Your last read book:

You dont read books at this site.