It is an encouraging sign of advancing culture that history is gaining a deeper and broader meaning. We are really becoming interested, not merely in our political, but also in our entire biological, psychological, and social evolution. Although such phrase-making is nearly always misleading, there would perhaps be more truth in saying that “history is past sociology and sociology present history” than in Freeman’s well-known epigram. In particular, the human family, with all that the word connotes, is commanding greater attention. Yet there is urgent need that its rise and social function should have far more earnest study than they now receive. The family and its cognate institutions ought to enter more fully into popular thought; and they should have much larger relative space in the educational program. From the home circle to the university seminar they are worthy to become a vital part of systematic social training. In the hope of aiding somewhat in winning for them due scientific recognition, this book is written. It seems not impossible that a sustained history of the matrimonial institutions of the English race in its “three homes” may prove a positive advantage, especially in gathering the materials and planning the work for more detailed investigations. Moreover, a thorough understanding of the social evolution of any people must rest upon the broader experience of mankind. Accordingly, in Part I the attempt is made to present a comprehensive and systematic analysis of the literature and the theories of primitive matrimonial institutions.

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[Bibliographical Note I.—The modern history of the patriarchal theory begins with Filmer’s Patriarchia (London, 1680), in which the author finds in the Hebrew family a justification of the “divine prerogative” of kings; and the trenchant reply of Locke in The Two Treatises on Civil Government (London, 1690), reprinted with Filmer’s work in the ninth volume of Morley’s Universal Library. But the theory is especially associated with the name of Sir Henry Maine. HisAncient Law (New York, 1861), aside from its leading hypothesis, is one of the most suggestive books of the century. It was followed by the Early History of Institutions (New York, 1875); the Village Communities (New York, 1876); and Early Law and Custom (New York, 1883). In this last work he contributes supplementary chapters on such topics as “Ancestor-Worship” and “East European House Communities,” and he replies to his critics. Maine is criticised by Spencer, Principles of Sociology (New York, 1879), Vol. I, Part III, chap. ix; and by McLennan, Patriarchal Theory (London, 1885), who, on the negative side, is fairly successful in confuting his adversary. Hearn’s Aryan Household (London, 1879) and the Ancient City (Boston, 1877) of Fustel de Coulanges take practically the same view of primitive society as Maine, while particularly emphasizing ancestor-worship and the genealogical organization.

For the early Aryans and the Hindus see Zimmer’s Alt-indisches Leben (Berlin, 1879); Delbrück’s Die indogermanischen Verwandtschaftsnamen (Leipzig, 1885); Schrader’s Sprachvergleichung und Urgeschichte (Jena, 1883), or the English translation by Jevons (London, 1890); Zmigrodski’s Die Mutter bei den Völkern des arischen Stammes (Munich, 1886); and especially Leist’s epoch-making works, Graeco-italische Rechtsgeschichte (Jena, 1884) and the Alt-arisches Jus Gentium (Jena, 1889). Of first-rate value also are the Rechtshistorische und rechtsvergleichende Forschungen (Part III, on Indisches Ehe- und Familienrecht) and the other papers of the indefatigable Kohler. Of these the following are particularly interesting in this connection, all found in the Zeitschrift für vergleichende Rechtswissenschaft: “Rechtsverhältnisse auf dem ostind. Archipel u. den westl. Karolinen,” ZVR., VI, 344-50; “Gewohnheitsrechte des Pendschabs,” ibid., VII, 161-239; “Indische Gewohnheitsrechte,” ibid., VIII, 89-147,[4] 262-73; “Gewohnheitsrechte von Bengalen,” ibid., IX, 321-60; “Gewohnheitsrechte der Provinz Bombay,” ibid., X, 64-142, 161-88; “Gewohnheitsrechte der ind. Nordwestprovinzen,” ibid., XI, 161-95; and, for comparison, “Die Ionsage und Vaterrecht,” ibid., V, 407-14; “Studien über künstliche Verwandtschaft,” ibid., V, 415-40; and “Das Recht der Armenier,” ibid., VII, 385-436. As in the last-named paper, the influence of Roman law may be traced in Mégavorian, Étude ethnographique et juridique sur la famille et le mariage arméniens (Paris, 1894). Hass, “Die Heirathsgebrāuche der alten Inder nach den Grihyasûtra,” in Weber’s Indische Studien, V, 267-412 (Berlin, 1862), reveals in an admirable way the religious spirit pervading the ancient Hindu matrimonial life. This study suggested the excellent monograph of Weber, “Vedische Hochzeitssprüche,” ibid., V, 177-266; while the conclusions of both Haas and Weber are ably supported, with the aid of additional sources, by the more elaborate paper of Winternitz, “Das altindische Hochzeitsrituell,” in Denkschriften der kais. Akad. d. Wiss., phil.-hist. Klasse, XL, 1-113 (Vienna, 1892). In this connection, for comparison, may be read Mackenzie, “An Account of the Marriage Ceremonies of the Hindus and Mahommedans as Practised in the Southern Peninsula of India,” in Transactions of the Royal Asiatic Society, III (London, 1835); and Lushington, “On the Marriage Rites and Usages of the Jâts of Bharatpur,” in Journal of the Asiatic Society of Bengal, II, 273-97 (Calcutta, 1833). Especially important are Bernhöft’s “Die Grundlagen der Rechtsentwicklung bei den indogermanischen Völkern,” in ZVR., II, 253-328; his “Altindisches Familienorganisation,” ibid., IX, 1-45; and his “Das Gesetz von Gortyn,” ibid., VI, 281-304, 430-40. A popular, but in the main uncritical, book is Clarisse Bader’s La femme dans l’Inde antique (2d ed., Paris, 1867). Similar in plan and treatment are her La femme biblique (new ed., Paris, 1873); La femme grecque (2d ed., Paris, 1873); and La femme romaine (2d ed., Paris, 1877). A strong defense of the dignified position of the ancient Indic woman, based on the sources, may be found in Jacolliot’s La femme dans l’Inde (Paris, 1877); and Mary Frances Billington is a vigorous champion of the social status of modern Woman in India (London, 1895). See also Pizzi, “Les coutumes nuptiales aux temps héroïques de l’Iran,” in La Muséon, II, 3 (1883); Vidyasagar, On Widow-Marriages among the Hindus (Calcutta, 1855); and Schlagintweit, “Die Hindu-Wittwe in Indien,” in Globus, XLIII (1883). Among the best technical writings are Mayne’s Hindu Law and Usage (Madras and London, 1888); Jolly’s Hindu Law of Partition (Calcutta, 1885); his Rechtliche Stellung der Frauen bei den alten Indern (Munich, 1876); Tupper’s Punjab Customary Law (Calcutta, 1881); and Gooroodass’s “The Hindu Law of Marriage and Stridahn,” in Tagore Law Lectures, 1878 (Calcutta, 1879). Max Müller’s series of Sacred[5] Books contains Apastamba, Gautama, Visnu, and the other Sūtras, as well as the later versified law-books of Manu and Yājñavalkya, with other sources of ancient Indic custom. Burnell and Hopkins’s Manu (London, 1891) is an excellent edition; and Jolly has a German translation of Books VIII and IX in ZVR., III, 232-83; IV, 321-61. For each important point these sources are thoroughly collated in the writings of Kohler, Leist, and Jolly, above referred to.

For the Slavs, Krauss’s Sitte und Brauch der Südslaven (Vienna, 1885) is the most valuable treatise. See also Turner, Slavisches Familienrecht (Strassburg, 1874); and Kovalevsky’s Modern Customs and Ancient Laws of Russia (London, 1891), in which the author criticises and corrects Sir Henry Maine on important points. For Greece, in addition to Leist’s works above mentioned, see the paper of Campaux, Du mariage à Athènes (Paris, 1867); that of Moy, “La famille dans Homère,” in Revue des cours littéraires, 8 mars 1869; Stegeren, De conditione civili feminarum atheniensium (Zwallae, 1839); Ouvré, Observations sur le régime matrimonial au temps d’Homère (Paris, 1886); Lasaulx, Zur Geschichte und Philosophie der Ehe bei den Griechen (Munich, 1852); especially Hruza’s Die Ehebegründung nach attischem Rechte (Erlangen and Leipzig, 1892); and his Polygamie und Pellikat nach griechischem Rechte (Erlangen and Leipzig, 1894).

On the matrimonial institutions of the Romans consult Marquardt’s Privatleben; Lange’s Römische Alterthümer; Smith’s Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities; Müller’s Handbuch; Bernhöft’s Staat und Recht der rom. Königszeit (Stuttgart, 1882); Karlowa’s Die Formen der röm. Ehe und Manus (Bonn, 1868); Rossbach’s Die röm. Ehe (Stuttgart, 1853); his Römische Hochzeits- und Ehedenkmäler (Leipzig, 1871); Laband’s “Rechtliche Stellung der Frauen im altröm. und germanischen Recht,” in Zeitschrift für Völkerpsychologie, III (Berlin, 1865); and Bouchez-Leclercq’s Manuel des inst. romaines (Paris, 1886). From the mass of writings which are of service for this and the four subsequent chapters may also be mentioned Brissonius, De ritu nuptiarum (Paris, 1564); his De jure connubiorum (Paris, 1564); Hotman, De veteri ritu nuptiarum observatio; his De sponsalibus; his De ritu nuptiarum et jure matrimoniorum—all published and bound with the two works of Brissonius (Leyden, 1641); Grupen, De uxore romana (Hannover, 1727); Ayrer, De jure connubiorum apud romanos (Göttingen, 1736); the anonymous Dei riti delle antiche nozze romane (Perugia, 1791); Maanen, De muliere in manu et in tutela (Lugd. Bat., 1823); Schultz, De jure succedendi feminarum apud romanos (Trajecti ad Rhenum, 1826); Chamblain, De la puissance paternelle chez les romains (Paris, 1829); Eggers, Wesen und Eigenthümlichkeiten der altröm. Ehe mit Manus (Altona, 1833); Mahlmann, De matrimonii veterum romanorum ineundi (Halle, 1845); Hase, De manu juris romani (Halle, 1847);[6] Gerlach, De romanorum connubio (Halle, 1851); Dubief, Qualis fuerit familia romana tempore Plauti (Molini, 1859); Pagés, La famille romaine (Toulouse, 1892); Louïse, Du sénatus-consulte velléien et de l’incapacité de la femme mariée (Chateau-Thierry, 1873); Bourdin, De la condition de la mère en droit romain et en droit français (Paris, 1881); Salomon, Du mariage du droit des gens et en général des mariages sans connubium (Paris, 1889); Desminis, Die Eheschenkung nach röm. und insbesondere nach byzantinischem Recht (Athens, 1897); and Ciccotti, Donne e politica negli ultimi anni della republica romana (Milan, 1895). The criticisms of Kuntze, Excurse über röm. Recht (2d ed., Leipzig, 1880), and Esmein, Mélanges d’histoire du droit et de critique (Paris, 1886), are of great value on various important questions. Compare also Couch, “Woman in Early Roman Law,” in Harvard Law Review, VIII (Cambridge, 1895); Picot, Du mariage romain, chrétien, et français (Paris, 1849); Monlezun, Condition civile de la femme mariée à Rome et en France (Paris, 1878); Tardieu, De la puissance paternelle en droit romain et en droit français (Paris, 1875); and Cornil, “Contribution à l’étude de la patria potestas,” in Nouv. rev. hist. de droit, XXI, 416-85 (Paris, 1897). Gide’s excellent Étude sur la condition privée de la femme (2d ed., Paris, 1885) deals with the laws of Greece, Rome, and other nations. Poste’s edition of Gaius’s Institutionum juris civilis commentarii quatuor (Oxford, 1875) is an indispensable source; and among legal treatises are particularly to be commended Muirhead’s Introduction to the Private Law of Rome (Edinburgh, 1886); Puchta’s Institutionen; Moyle’s Institutionum Libri (Oxford, 1890); Rein, Privatrecht (Leipzig, 1836); and especially Sohm’s Institutes (Oxford, 1892), by far the best work on the subject for historical purposes, showing the rare insight, clearness of analysis, and vigorous style peculiar to the author. Most readers will find the short Introduction of Hadley and the excellent Outlines of Professor Morey sufficient. For the general subject of marriage and the family the Zeitschrift für vergleichende Rechtswissenchaft (Stuttgart, 1878-96) is indispensable; while the Kritische Vierteljahresschrift für Gesetzgebung und Rechtswissenschaft and the Zeitschrift für Ethnologie are also of constant service.

For the literature of Arabian and Hebrew matrimonial institutions, respectively, see Bibliographical Notes II and IV.

The student who has not yet seriously attacked the literature of the subject will do well to begin with the following: Tylor, “On a Method of Investigating the Development of Institutions, Applied to Laws of Marriage and Descent,” in Journal of Anth. Inst., XVIII, No. 3; Bernhöft’s “Zur Geschichte des europäischen Familienrechts,” in ZVR., VIII, 1-27, 161-221, 384-405; in connection with his “Principien des europäischen Familienrechts,” ibid., IX, 392-444; Friedrichs,[7]“Familien-Stufen und Eheformen,” ibid., X, 189-281; the first two chapters of Posada’s Théories modernes (Paris, 1896); and the first three chapters of Botsford’s Athenian Constitution (Boston, 1893), one of the ablest contributions to comparative institutions. This is supplemented by H. E. Seebohm’s Structure of Greek Tribal Society (London and New York, 1895). For summaries of the results of investigations, from different points of view, Delbrück’s “Das Mutterrecht bei den Indogermanen,” in Preussische Jahrbücher, XCVII, 14-27 (Berlin, 1895), may be compared with Dargun’s Mutterrecht und Vaterrecht (Leipzig, 1892), containing a criticism of the views of many recent writers.]

It is the primary purpose of this book to trace the development of the family and marriage in the “three homes” of the English race. An attempt is made to describe the mechanism provided by the state for the administration of matrimonial law; and to appreciate the importance of some of the many problems centering in the family as a social institution. Necessarily a theme so broad may here be treated only in outline. Yet in the outset it is the limitations of the subject which require to be most carefully noted. It is but a part of the wide field of family history which receives special attention. We are closely concerned with the forms of celebration and divorce as they existed among our Teutonic ancestors, and as they have since been molded by custom and legislation in England and the United States. Only in a secondary degree are we interested in the intricate law of the domestic relations. Except incidentally, we are not now called upon to consider the property rights of husband and wife, the laws of guardian and ward, or the rules of kinship and succession.

More pertinent is the general question of the genesis of human marriage and the human family.[1] It will be[8] impossible, of course, to examine independently the many difficult problems which have arisen in this connection. Even the specialist may find it hard to trace a clear way through the bewildering maze of existing theory and sub-theory. It seems desirable, therefore, by way of introduction, to present as clearly and briefly as may be the more salient results of recent investigation. Marriage is a product of social experience. Hence to understand its modern aspects it is needful to appeal to the general sociological facts surrounding its origin and its early history among the races of mankind. It is necessary to get our bearings. At the dawn of history the Teutonic family was essentially monogamic, originating in a contractual relation. What, then, do we know as to the origin of the monogamic family and regarding the conditions under which marriage by contract arose? Part I will concern itself with the solution of this question.

The literature[2] of primitive marriage and the family is already formidable; and, however contradictory and discouraging, on first examination, its conclusions may appear, there can be little doubt that they demonstrate the possibilities of the comparative method[3] in the domain of social institutions. It is in this field, indeed, that evolutional science bids fair to achieve its most signal triumph. At last, in the laboratory of science, there is some prospect that man may come really to know himself. On the other hand, it is precisely in the study of primitive marriage that the “perils[9] of historical narrative” are most clearly revealed.[4] Nowhere, perhaps, can there be found rasher inference[5] and more sweeping generalization from inadequate data. Too often economic and psychological laws have been slighted; and, in a field where their careful observance is so vitally important, the fundamental principles of organic evolution—such, for instance, as natural selection—have frequently been ignored.[6] A vast mass of interesting facts relating to man’s social development, highly important for him to know, has been disclosed. But, with a few notable exceptions, the signal failure of investigators thus far has been the attempt to sustain theories of uniform social progress. The criticism, especially, to which the writings of Bachofen, Maine, Morgan, and McLennan have given rise has greatly weakened the faith of scholars in the doctrine of universal stages of evolution through which all mankind has run.[7]


Students of comparative institutions have generally regarded the family as the unit or germ from which the higher forms of social organism have been evolved. A German scholar declares that among all the races of antiquity “the constitution of the family was the basis and prototype[10] of the constitution of the state.”[8] The same theory is clearly set forth and the process of political expansion carefully described by Plato and also by Aristotle,[9] who base it upon their own observation both among “Hellenes and barbarians,” and each illustrates it by reference to the Cyclops of Homer.[10] It is not wholly improbable, as will presently appear, that the family in some form must be accepted as the initial society, possibly among all the races of mankind. At a very early ethnical period the family, so far as it implies great authority, perhaps even the despotic power of the house-father over his wife and children, may often have been “patriarchal.” To admit this, however, is very different from accepting as the primordial cell of social development the strictly defined patriarchal family of Sir Henry Maine’s Ancient Law. In this book, which made its appearance in 1861, we are told that the “effect of the evidence derived from comparative jurisprudence is to establish that view of the primeval condition of the human race which is known as the Patriarchal Theory.”[11] The primitive family as thus conceived is substantially the Roman family, not in all respects as it actually appears in the historical period, but as it is thought that it must have been before the process of transformation[11] and decay began. It is a much more extended group than the modern family, embracing under the headship of the eldest valid male parent all agnatic descendants and all persons united to it by adoption, as well as slaves, clients, and other dependents.[12] The power of the house-father is most despotic, though exercised during his entire lifetime over the unmarried daughters and over even the married sons and their wives and children. Thus originally, it is said, the Roman pater familias has power of life and death, vita necisque, over his children. He may sell them into slavery, and sons, even those who hold the highest offices of state, can originally own no property.[13] The patriarch is king and priest of the household. As a sort of “corporation sole,” he is likewise its representative and administrator; for the property is regarded as a part of the family, and on the death of the house-father the family devolves upon the universal successor.[14] A characteristic feature of the patriarchal family is agnation, or the system of tracing kinship through males only.[15] Agnatic relationship “is in truth the connection between members of the[12] family, conceived as it was in the most ancient times.”[16] Its foundation is “not the marriage of father and mother, but the authority of the father…. In truth, in the primitive view, relationship is exactly limited by patria potestas. Where the potestas begins, kinship begins; and therefore adoptive relatives are among the kindred. Where thepotestas ends, kinship ends; so that a son emancipated by his father loses all rights of agnation. And here we have the reason why the descendants of females are outside the limits of archaic kinship.” Indeed “it is obvious that the organization of primitive societies would have been confounded, if men had called themselves relatives of their mother’s relatives.”[17] The basis of the patriarchal family is the patria potestas, but in its “normal shape” it has not been and could not be “generally a durable institution.”[18] Yet its former universality may be inferred from certain derivative institutions, such as the perpetual tutelage of women, the guardianship of minors, the relation of master and slave, and especially from agnation which is found “almost everywhere” and is “as it were a mould” retaining the imprint of the paternal powers after they have ceased to exist.[19] Applying this test chiefly, Maine finds evidence of the existence of the potestas among the Hebrews as well as all the peoples of the Aryan stock; and he believes that it would be hard to say “of what races of men it is not allowable to lay down that the society in which they are united was originally organized on the patriarchal model.”[20]

The patriarchal family as thus constituted is the “type of an archaic society in all the modifications which it was capable of assuming.” From it as in concentric circles have been successively evolved all the higher forms of political organization. Everywhere, as at Rome, “the aggregation[13] of families forms the gens or house. The aggregation of houses makes the tribe. The aggregation of tribes constitutes the commonwealth.”[21] The state is therefore the result of the expansion of its primordial cell;[22] and the genealogical organization of society precedes and overlaps the territorial. All these groups, lower and higher, regard themselves as united by the bond of kinship. But, as a matter of fact, the kinship is often assumed; and the heterogeneity of blood is explained as the result of the fiction of adoption by which relationship is artificially extended and strangers are admitted to the sacra. Without this fiction, says Maine, “I do not see how any one of the primitive groups, whatever were their nature, could have absorbed another, or on what terms any two of them could have combined, except those of absolute superiority on one side and absolute subjection on the other.” Society could hardly have escaped from its “swaddling clothes.”[23] Furthermore, a strong motive for the artificial extension of the family is derived from the worship of ancestors. The earnest desire of the ancients for male issue to perpetuate the family rites has tended to foster adoption, and it probably accounts for the levirate and other similar expedients to provide an heir.[24]



The patriarchal family of the Ancient Law, whose leading features have now been presented, reappears with slight modification in the later writings of Sir Henry Maine.[25] It has been widely accepted. Yet it was inevitable that a theory which on its face appears to neglect many of the most remarkable facts everywhere observable in the social life of primitive men[26] should arouse most serious doubt. Nor will it do, with Starcke,[27] to excuse the author on the ground that his conclusions are intended to be true only for the domain of the law-books, of comparative jurisprudence; for obviously his language will not bear that construction.

Herbert Spencer was the first writer to subject Maine’s hypothesis to a luminous criticism.[28] First he points out that Maine has not been entirely guiltless of “the lofty contempt” entertained by civilized peoples for their barbarous neighbors, which he himself censures as a serious error. For he “has[15] practically disregarded the great mass of the uncivilized” peoples, and “ignored the vast array of facts they present at variance with his theory.” Nor, in favor of a primitive patriarchal state, is it safe to assume that “the implicit obedience of rude men to their parents is doubtless a primary fact.” For, “though among lower races, sons, while young, may be subordinate, from lack of ability to resist; yet that they remain subordinate when they become men cannot be assumed as a uniform, and therefore as a primary, fact.” This objection is sustained by reference to many savage and barbarous tribes among which parents exercise little or no control over the children. Again, it is by no means established that “the history of political ideas begins, in fact, with the assumption that kinship in blood is the sole possible ground of community in political functions.” On the contrary, “political co-operation arises from the conflicts of social groups with one another;”[29] and though it may be facilitated by a feeling of common descent, examples of political combination may be produced in which relationship is not considered. Furthermore, it is hard to conceive how so advanced a conception of government as is implied by the patria potestas could exist in the “infancy of society;” nor has it yet been proved that in the primitive state the individual is entirely lost in the family group, which holds all property in common. Instances of “personal monopoly” of property among low races are not wanting. Finally the assumption that in the primordial state women remained in perpetual tutelage is without foundation; how far it is from the truth will be made clear in future chapters.[30]

But the patriarchal theory has been vigorously attacked in its very strongholds, the laws of the Hebrews and the[16] primitive customs of the Indo-Germanic peoples. The well-known polemic of the late J. F. McLennan is of special interest in this connection.[31] Among none of the Aryan races, the Romans only excepted, does he find the patria potestas or the strict rule of agnation; while among them all, he believes, abundant evidence of original promiscuity and of the maternal system of kinship is disclosed. Even the Hebrew Scriptures, where Maine perceives “the chief lineaments” of the patriarchal society,[32] so far from revealing the patria potestas and agnation, bear witness to “beena”[33] marriage and the recognition of kinship in the female line.[34] Sir Henry Maine in this connection refers incidentally to Sir Robert Filmer in whose Patriarchia the existence of the patria potestas among the ancient Hebrews is alleged. But, as McLennan justly observes, “to those who have studied the controversy between Locke and[17] Filmer[35] it may seem wonderful that the truth of Filmer’s main position could be thus lightly assumed by anyone, and especially by any lawyer, who had read Locke’s masterly reply to the pleadings of his opponent.”[36] The principal conclusions of McLennan are sustained in a striking way, for a sister-branch of the Semitic race, by the researches of Wilken and Robertson Smith into the marriage customs of early Arabia.[37] The ancient Hebrews did not have agnation; yet they “traced descent from the father for the purposes of what we may call rank, or a feeling of caste,” and this was the source of paternal power.[38] The house-father exercised a high degree of authority over his wives and children, but he can scarcely be regarded as a patriarch in the strict sense of the term.[39]



Let us now see somewhat more in detail what light is thrown by recent investigation on the controversy between Maine and McLennan. Westermarck has taken great pains to enumerate the uncivilized peoples, chiefly non-Aryan, among whom descent and usually inheritance follow the paternal side;[40] and he finds that the number is “scarcely less” than the number of those among whom the female line is exclusively recognized. But in many of these cases it seems probable that the parental rather than the agnatic system prevails, though the male line may take precedence. In some instances rank or authority descends from father to son, while in other respects the female line predominates. Doubtless more frequently than is usually imagined a mixed system rather than a strictly paternal or a strictly maternal system would be found to exist.[41] As the result of his inquiry, Westermarck rejects the hypothesis that kinship through the mother is a primitive and universal stage, though he does not substitute the agnatic theory in its place. Starcke, on the other hand, after an extended examination of the customs of rude races, especially in America and Australia, suggests that the paternal as a general rule probably preceded the maternal system which arose only with the development of the gentile organization.[42] But Starcke’s evidence can scarcely be accepted as convincing.

Similar difficulties are presented by the question of the prevalence of the so-called patriarchal power among non-Aryan[19] races. Many apparent examples of despotic authority can be enumerated;[43] but it is often hard to determine whether, as in the cases of the Arabs and Hebrews, we have to do merely with a high degree of power on the part of the house-father or with a genuine patria potestas of the Roman type. Naturally, as Westermarck suggests, the father’s authority among savages “depends exclusively, or chiefly, upon his superior strength;”[44] while anything like a patriarchal “system” can only arise later under the influence of ancestor-worship and more developed social and industrial conditions. Where authority depends solely or mainly upon brute force, it is evident that a very protracted patriarchal despotism over the sons is hard to conceive. Moreover, much error has doubtless arisen through falsely assuming that paternal authority and mother-right are incompatible; whereas they may well coexist, as will presently appear.

For the Indo-Germanic or Aryan peoples the investigations of Zimmer, Schrader, Delbrück, Kohler, and especially the researches of Leist, enable us to speak with a higher degree of confidence, though only for the period covered by positive linguistic and legal evidence. Bachofen, McLennan, and after them many other writers,[45] as will later be shown, have maintained that among all branches of the Aryan stock conclusive proofs exist of a former matriarchate, or, at any rate, of exclusive succession in the female line. But this[20] view is decidedly rejected, if not entirely overthrown, by the philologists, and depends for its support on the presence in later institutions of alleged survivals. The judgment of Delbrück must probably be accepted as decisive for the present state of linguistic, if not of all scientific, inquiry. He declares that “no sure traces of a former maternal family among the Indo-Germanic peoples have been produced.”[46] Similar conclusions are reached by Schrader, Max Müller, and Leist.[47] Also, among the institutional writers, Wake declares that “primitively among the peoples belonging to the wide-spread Aryan or Indo-European stock, while relationship was acknowledged through both parents, descent was traced preferably in the male line;”[48] and Bernhöft, constrained through the evidence presented by Schrader and Delbrück, believes that it is now placed “beyond question that the primitive Aryans did not live according to mother-right,” but were united in family groups resembling the south Slavonian house communities.[49] On the other hand, Dargun, the foremost defender of the theory of mother-right, thinks that Bernhöft has “capitulated” too easily.[50] In his[21] last monograph, entitled Mutterrecht und Vaterrecht, he maintains essentially the conclusion of his Mutterrecht und Raubehe, that before their separation the Aryan people had developed the system of kinship “through the mother as the only or chief basis of blood-relationship” and had “subordinated their entire family law to this principle.”[51] But the later treatise contains a very important modification, or perhaps, more justly speaking, extension, of the author’s theory. Setting aside as still an open question the general prevalence of promiscuity or sexual communism at the very dawn of distinctively human life, Dargun conceives that, before any system of kinship, maternal or agnatic, became recognized as a principle of customary family law, there must have existed a family, or rather parent-group (Elterngruppe), in which the father was protector and master of the mother and her children. This parent-group is the “hypothetical primordial cell of the family,” brought together by sexual requirements and the need of sustenance and protection. It is “structureless, devoid of any firm bond, since it rests neither upon the principle of relationship nor that of legalized power.” Its resemblance to the patriarchal family, though misleading, “is not without significance.” For it “forms the necessary stage of an evolution which in analogous manner is also passed through by property. Inductively it is still demonstrable that individualism and atomism, not communism, as is usually assumed, are the starting point of evolution.”[52] As a general rule, according to Dargun, the structureless parent-group is superseded by the maternal family, whose basis is mother-right, or the exclusive legal recognition of blood-relationship in the female line. Only in rare cases does the patriarchal agnatic family follow[22] immediately upon the primitive group, without prior development of mother-right;[53] and hence, under exceptional conditions hindering the rise of the maternal system, do we find a form of the family in which, from a very early period, the house-father is the source of authority, practical or legalized.

Aside from his theory of evolution, in his principal thesis, which he fairly sustains by powerful argument, Dargun has rendered to science a distinct service. It is, he insists, highly necessary carefully to distinguish between power and relationship. “Mother-right” does not involve “maternal power” or the matriarchate, though sometimes actually united with it; nor does the headship of the house-father as provider, protector, and master imply agnation, the so-called “father-right.” There is no contrast between power and relationship. “Mother-right in the sense of exclusive maternal kinship is compatible with a patriarchate just as exclusive.” They may, and often do, coexist. It follows that the presence of the maternal system of kinship does not imply the existence of maternal power; just as it does not imply the non-existence of paternal authority. The distinction between power and kinship is justly declared to be an “indispensable key” for the solution of the greatest difficulties arising in this branch of sociological science, the disregard of which has often vitiated or confused the argument even of the foremost investigators.[54]With the aid of his key Dargun examines the linguistic evidence, which he finds favorable to the existence of mother-right among all the Aryan peoples after the separation, though united with a real supremacy of the house-father;[55] and he protests vigorously[23] against the tendency, even on the part of Leist, to confound old Indic with old Aryan law; for the “Indians of the Vedas are in many respects more advanced than the Germans a thousand or the Slavs two thousand years later.”[56]Valuable as the criticism of Dargun undoubtedly is, notably his distinction between power and relationship, it can scarcely be admitted that he has done more than reopen the question of the existence at any time of mother-right among the Aryans. His results are negative. He has not shifted the burden of proof; while his argument tends to confirm the view of the philologists that from the primitive stage the Aryan father was head of the household.[57]

But the patriarchal theory, strictly considered, fares little better than the maternal at the hands of recent investigators. Leist, who has been able with wonderful completeness to reconstruct the juridical life of the early household, though largely on the basis of old Indic sources, declares positively that “the Aryan people has not within itself a single element of patriarchalism.”[58] This statement, as Bernhöft observes,[59] is perhaps too sweeping, even when[24] tested by the results of Leist’s own researches; but the patriarchal family of Sir Henry Maine does not appear. The evolution of juridical conceptions among the old Aryans, according to Leist, presents two general phases. First is the rita stage, or period of fixed, divinely appointed order, of natural law, corresponding to the Greek cosmos or phusis and the Latin ratum or ratio naturalis. In this “natural history” or pantheistic stage there is at first little idea of law as something to be separately contemplated. Under ritais comprehended the unchangeable order observable in the material world as well as in the physical and social life of man; but the universe and the creative energy, the All and Varuna, are identified or blended in thought.[60] Only slowly are these concepts differentiated and the immutable order of nature becomes looked upon as dhama, or a holy ordinance established by Varuna, who now appears as a protecting and creative spirit.

Dhama thus forms a means of transition to the second juridical phase, that of dharma, or divine law, corresponding to the Greek themis and the Latin fas.[61] In the dharma period, law is regarded as inspired by the gods, whose earthly agent, the priest or hero-king, is intrusted with its application; and[25] in it the rules governing civil and public conduct, according to modern conceptions, are not distinguished from those relating to manners, morality, or religion. When history dawns, our early Aryan ancestors had already entered the dharma phase of evolution; and even now the Hindus have scarcely gained the third phase, prevailing in the civilized West, in which the element of “civil law” is separate from all other ingredients.[62]

Of the family relations of our primitive ancestors in the rita period we know little, except through inference or analogy. The so-called “natural forms” of marriage by purchase and capture were doubtless practiced, but probably not exclusively; and these customs were handed down to the second period, though they were modified to bring them into harmony with the higher ethical and social ideas which had then gained predominance.[63] Whether or not the absolute power of the father and the strict rule of agnation prevailed it would be as difficult to affirm as to deny.[64] In the dharma period the ancient rita conception of marriage as an ordinance of nature, whose real purpose is to provide posterity, is still retained; but it gains a social character.[65] The central principle of the Aryan household is the Hestia-Vesta cult, or the worship of the sacred hearth. To gain the protection of the ancestral gods the hearth-fire must be kept always[26] burning; and the care of the family sacra is the special function of the house-father, who is lord and priest of the family. But the house-mother holds a worthy position in the domestic worship. From the first kindling of the hearth-fire at the nuptials, she appears as co-priestess and helper of her husband in the sacred rites. The whole life-partnership of the wedded pair is shaped and dominated by lofty religious motives. The Aryan housewife is not the chattel of her husband; she is a free woman and shares in his highest sacred functions. The primary purpose of the union is the birth of a legitimate son to perpetuate the paternal line and to foster the ancestral cult.[66] So paramount is this motive that, in case no son is born in wedlock, resort may be had to adoption, or to analogous expedients for the fictitious extension of fatherhood. For among the Aryans, as Maine suggests, the fiction of adoption is of the highest legal importance; and, indeed, very widely among the races of mankind it has served a useful purpose in social progress.[67][27] Here also the Aryan wife appears as co-priestess with her husband. Each is regarded as having a share in the begetting of the child, and they unite in giving the son in adoption to another household.[68] Accordingly the wife is not the mere chattel of her husband, who owns the children by virtue of his proprietorship in the mother.[69] The house-father appears in the sacred books as lord of the wife, who owes him reverence and obedience; yet she is not reduced to patriarchal slavery. With the husband she exercises joint control over the sons; and these are released entirely from parental authority when they marry and establish new households.[70] The male line takes legal precedence; but the maternal kindred are clearly recognized in a way wholly inconsistent with strict agnation.[71] According to the primitive Indic conception the wife is regarded as incapable of property. Neither the widow nor the daughters could inherit, the estate passing to the sons as in theory a means of providing for the sacra of the deceased house-father. Still the bride possessed her personal belongings—her couch, clothing, and ornaments; and from this germ gradually arose, beginning even in remote antiquity, her existing rights of property and inheritance.[72] In short, the old Aryan[28] household reveals but the elements of agnation and the potestas as they appear in the Roman law.[73]

This conclusion is confirmed by the customs of the Aryan peoples after the separation. Among the Hellenes at the first dawn of history the family appears as a member of the gens, which is held together usually by the ties of blood-relationship. The house-father is lord or monarch of the family. But his authority is tempered in various ways. Originally, as among the primitive Aryans, he may have exercised the power of life and death over his children; but in no case could he “put a child to death without the consent of the collective ancestors,” or near kindred.[74] By the Aryans the jus vitae necisque was never looked upon as an arbitrary right of destruction, but merely as a means of domestic discipline.[75] The Greek father might sell his minor sons and unmarried daughters; but “it appears that, even here, merely the labor of the youth and not the person itself[29] was disposed of by sale,” and the custom was controlled by the usage of the gens.[76] The wife, as among the Hindus, holds a dignified position in the household. She is her husband’s partner in the domestic economy and the sacred rites. Equally with him she is “the cause of the son’s existence,” and in consequence exercises over him conjointly with the father the powers of sale and life and death.[77] Thus Hellenic custom preserves the essential element of the Aryan paternal authority, which signifies a protecting, not an arbitrary or ruthlessly destructive, power. Among the historic Greeks the agnatic principle finds expression especially in the right of guardianship, which is transmitted in the paternal line. Such is the judgment of Leist, whose masterly account of the development of the Aryan agnatic conception proves that here as elsewhere the Roman and the Greek stood upon common ground.[78] The point of divergence is the lifelong continuance of the Roman potestas; whereas in Hellas the son was emancipated at maturity.[79]

Examination of the customs of the Celts,[80][30] the Slavonians,[81] and ancient Germans[82] leads to a like result. Accordingly we are forced to admit the accuracy of Gaius’s conclusion. Writing in the time of the Antonines, he declares his belief that the patria potestas is peculiarly a Roman institution. Only among the Asiatic Galatæ had he observed a similar authority exercised by the father over his children.[83] Instead of existing “almost everywhere,” often preserving as in a mold the imprint of the paternal power which it has outlived and upon which it is thought always to depend, among Aryan peoples agnation is found together with thepotestas only in one instance, that of the Roman law; and even in this case it was virtually the first to expire.[84] For, as is well known to the student of Roman jurisprudence, strict agnation, as determining right of succession, disappeared under the influence of the edict and imperial statutes long before the last vestige of the real patria potestas was swept away by the legislation of Justinian.[85]

Furthermore, in addition to the historical difficulty, there is another strong reason for doubting the dependence of agnation upon patria potestas: the inconsistency of the latter[31] in its effects upon kinship. If the descendants of married women are excluded from relationship, solely on the ground that they belong to another potestas, why, for the same reason, should not the children of men, say of brothers sui juris,[86] be likewise mutually excluded? Plainly some more satisfactory explanation of this remarkable discrimination between the sexes must exist. Such an explanation McLennan finds in exogamy, or the custom which forbids marriage between persons of the same group of acknowledged kindred.[87] It seems probable that in early times the patrician family was coextensive with the gensAgnatio and gentilitas were equivalent expressions.[88] During the historical period, at any rate, gentilitas is traced through the male line; and it is not impossible that originally inter-marriage was forbidden between those bearing the same gentile name.[89] In that case, agnation appears as the natural result of the gentile rule of exogamy, retained, after the weakening of the gens, for the regulation of succession within the family. Exogamy, however, does not necessarily imply the patria potestas, but is found more frequently perhaps with the maternal than with the paternal system of kinship.[90] In fact, for the Romans and kindred Italic tribes, considerable evidence has been collected by various writers pointing, as they believe, to an early transition from[32] the maternal to the cognatic or the agnatic system.[91] While this conclusion may be rejected, it must nevertheless be admitted that criticism of the patriarchal theory has been very successful in its general results. It appears to have established beyond question the complex and highly artificial character of the Roman family.[92] So far from being the type of early social organization, it is seen to be relatively modern and ill fitted to the condition of primitive men.

In the meantime, the patriarchal theory has had to reckon with a totally different view of the genesis and development of social institutions. To this view let us now turn.



[Bibliographical Note II.—A pioneer in the comparative history of marriage and the family is Unger, Die Ehe in ihrer welthistorischen Entwicklung (Vienna, 1850), who notices many of the leading phenomena connected with these institutions in different parts of the world; but his book is essentially a Tendenzschrift, to prove the elevating influence of Christianity and Teutonism. The literature of the Horde and Mother-Right opens, however, with Bachofen’s singular but learned treatise, Das Mutterrecht: Eine Untersuchung über die Gynaikokratie der alten Welt nach ihrer religiösen und rechtlichen Natur (Stuttgart, 1861), of which the original edition is now exceedingly scarce, although there is an exact reprint (Basel, 1897). This work is supplemented by Bachofen’s Die Sage von Tanaquil(Heidelberg, 1870), and his Antiquärische Briefe (Strassburg, 1886). Upon the Mutterrecht was based Giraud-Teulon’s La mère chez certains peuples de l’antiquité(Paris and Leipzig, 1867); followed by Les origines de la famille (Geneva, 1874), and Les origines du mariage et de la famille (Geneva and Paris, 1884), in both of which Bachofen’s principal conclusions are supported with much new material. A thoroughgoing disciple of the same school is Lippert, Die Geschichte der Familie (Stuttgart, 1884); and Kulturgeschichte der Menschheit (Stuttgart, 1886-87). Very important also in this connection are the Mutterrecht und Raubehe of Dargun (Breslau, 1883), and his later treatise, Mutterrecht und Vaterrecht (Leipzig, 1892), a very able defense of the theory of mother-right for the Aryan peoples after the separation, though conceding that the maternal system was not developed in the primitive stage.

A scholar, who in the main belongs to the same group and who is one of the foremost students of the laws and usages of savage and barbarous peoples, is Post, whose more important writings are Die Geschlechtsgenossenschaft der Urzeit (Oldenburg, 1875); Der Ursprung des Rechts (Oldenburg, 1876); Die Anfänge des Staats- und Rechtsleben (Oldenburg, 1878); Die Grundlagen des Rechts (Oldenburg, 1884); Einleitung in das Studium der ethnologischen Jurisprudenz(Oldenburg, 1886); Afrikanische Jurisprudenz (Oldenburg and Leipzig, 1887); Studien zur Entwicklungsgeschichte des Familienrechts (Oldenburg and Leipzig, 1889); and “Die Kodifikation des Rechts der Amaxosa von[34] 1891,” in ZVR., XI. The last-named paper may be read in connection with Rehme’s “Ueber das Recht der Amaxosa,” in ZVR., X; Kohler’s “Ueber das Negerrecht, namentlich in Kamerun,” ibid., XI; Bertholon, “Les formes de la famille,” in Arch. de l’anth. crim., VIII (1893); Zöller, Forschungsreisen in der Kolonie Kamerun (Berlin and Stuttgart, 1886); the Kamerun of Buchner (Leipzig, 1887); Munzinger’s Ostafrikanische Studien (Schaffhausen, 1864); the important work of Fritsch, Die Eingeborenen Süd-Afrikas (Breslau, 1872), treating of the family customs of various aboriginal tribes; Kranz, Natur- und Kulturleben der Zulus (Wiesbaden, 1880); Kingsley, Travels in West Africa (London, 1897); Tillinghast, The Negro in Africa and America (New York, 1902).

By entirely different routes the theories of universal communism and mother-right were reached by Lewis H. Morgan, beginning with the League of the Iroquois(Rochester, 1851); followed by his great work on Systems of Consanguinity and Affinity (Washington, 1871); the systematic treatise entitled Ancient Society (New York, 1878); and the Houses and House-Life of the American Aborigines (Washington, 1881); and by J. F. McLennan, Primitive Marriage (1865); reprinted with other papers as Studies in Ancient History (London, 1876). After the author’s death appeared the Patriarchal Theory (London, 1885), edited and completed by his brother Donald McLennan; and the second series of Studies (London and New York, 1896), edited by his widow and Arthur Platt.

Sir John Lubbock, Origin of Civilization (New York, 1889), maintains the theory and introduces the name of “communal marriage.” McLennan is in the main supported by Robertson Smith, Kinship and Marriage in Early Arabia (Cambridge, 1885). This book may be read in connection with Wilken, Das Matriarchat bei den alten Arabern (Leipzig, 1884); Kohler, “Vorislamitisches Recht der Araber,” in ZVR., VIII; Friedrichs, “Das Eherecht des Islams,” ibid., VII; Vincenti, Die Ehe im Islam (Vienna, 1876); Pischon, Der Einfluss des Islams auf das häusliche, soziale, und politische Leben seiner Bekenner (Leipzig, 1881); Perron, Femme arabe(Paris and Alger, 1858); Kremer, Kulturgeschichte des Orients unter den Kalifen (Vienna, 1875); Vámbéry, Der Islam im neunzehnten Jahrhundert (Leipzig, 1875); his Türkenvolk (Leipzig, 1885); Hanoteau and Letourneux, La kabylie et les coutumes kabyles (Paris, 1893); and Baway, “The Marriage Customs of the Moors of Ceylon,” in Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society, Ceylon Branch, 1887-88, X, 219-33 (Colombo, 1888). Read also Redhouse, Notes on Tylor’s ‘Arabian Matriarchate,’ propounded by Tylor before the British Association, Montreal, 1884.

For the matrimonial institutions of the Australian aborigines, whose so-called “group-marriage” has played so great a part in speculation, see especially Fison and Howitt, Kamilaroi and Kurnai[35] (Melbourne, 1880), supplemented by their “Deme and the Horde,” in Journal of the Anth. Inst., XIV, 142-68 (London, 1885), comparing Attic and Australian classes and local divisions; Fison’s article on “Primitive Marriage,” in Pop. Sci. Monthly, XVII (New York, 1880); his paper on “Classificatory Systems of Relationship,” in Brit. Assoc. Adv. Sci. (Oxford, 1894); Howitt’s “Remarks on the Class Systems Collected by Mr. Palmer,” in Journal of the Anth. Inst., XIII, 335-46 (London, 1884); his “Dieri and Other Kindred Tribes of Central Australia,” ibid., XX; “Further Notes on the Australian Class Systems,” ibid., XVIII, 31-36 (London, 1889); “Organization of Australian Tribes,” in Trans. Roy. Soc. of Victoria, I, Part II (1889); and his “Australian Group Relations,” in Rep. Smith. Inst., 1883 (Washington, 1885). Important also are Cunow, Die Verwandtschafts-Organisationen der Australneger (Stuttgart, 1894), supplementing Morgan’s Ancient Society, while rejecting some of Morgan’s and Fison’s conclusions; Kohler, “Das Recht der Australneger,” in ZVR., VII; his laterZur Urgeschichte der Ehe below named; McLennan, Studies, II, 278-310; Curr, The Australian Race (Melbourne, 1886), rejecting the theory of “group-marriage” and promiscuity; especially Roth’s North-West-Central Queensland Aborigines (Brisbane and London, 1899); and Spencer and Gillen’s very able and detailed account of the Native Tribes of Central Australia (New York and London, 1899), both of which works, like those of Kohler, tend to sustain the general, though not all the incidental, conclusions of Fison and Howitt. Among the many papers and books useful for studying the social life of the Australians are Palmer, “Notes on Some Australian Tribes,” in Journal of the Anth. Inst., XIII (London, 1884); Mathew, “The Australian Aborigines,” in Journal of the Royal Society of New South Wales, XXIII (Sydney, 1889); Mathews, “Australian Class Systems,” in The Am. Anthropologist, IX, X (Washington, 1896-97); and his “The Victorian Aborigines,” ibid., XI (Washington, 1898). Supplementary materials may likewise be found in Dawson, Australian Aborigines (Melbourne, Sydney, and Adelaide, 1881); Jung, Das Welttheil Australien (Leipzig, 1882); Smyth, Aborigines of Victoria (London, 1878); Smith and Stewart’s The Booandik Tribe (1880); Lang, Social Origins; Atkinson, Primal Law (published together, London, New York, and Bombay, 1903); and especially Crawley, Mystic Rose (London and New York, 1902).

McLennan was first systematically and luminously criticised by Spencer, in Part III of his Principles of Sociology (published, in parts, 1874-77; complete, New York, 1879). McLennan replied in two articles in the Fortnightly Review, XXVII (London, 1877); and in turn Spencer has a “Rejoinder,” reprinted in his Various Fragments (New York, 1898). Gomme supplements McLennan’s evidences for his “Theory of[36] the Primitive Horde,” in Journal of Anth. Inst., XVII (London, 1888); and this article is criticised by Wake, Primitive Human Horde, reprinted from ibid., February, 1888. Morgan is supported by Engels, Ursprung der Familie(Stuttgart, 1892). His researches are appreciatively reviewed and supplemented by Bernhöft, Verwandtschaftsnamen und Eheformen der nord-amerikanischen Volksstämme (Rostock, 1888); and they are criticised by Lubbock, “On the Development of Relationships,” in Journal of Anth. Inst., I (London, 1872). The views of Morgan and McLennan are examined by Wake in his “Classificatory Systems of Relationship,” ibid., VIII (London, 1879); and his “Primitive Human Family,” ibid., IX (London, 1880). See also his “Nature and Origin of Group Marriage,” ibid., XIII (London, 1884); and his Le mariage communal (Paris, 1875), replying to Barbier. An able conservative writer, vigorously and learnedly attacking the fundamental conclusions of recent sociological and ethnological science, is Schneider,Die Naturvölker: Missverständnisse, Missdeutungen und Misshandlungen (Paderborn and Münster, 1885-86). He is severely criticised by Hellwald, whose Menschliche Familie (Leipzig, 1889) is one of the most original contributions to our subject. This was preceded by the same writer’s Kulturgeschichte (3d ed., Augsburg, 1883). Important monographs are Bobbio, Sulle origine e sul fondamento della famiglia (Turin, 1891); and the clear summary of Th. Achelis, Die Entwicklung der Ehe (Berlin, 1893); which may be read in connection with Dr. A. Achelis’s “Geschlechtsgenossenschaft,” in Zeitschrift der Gesellschaft für Erdkunde, No. 148 (Berlin, 1890). Of service also in connection with various topics are Cunow, “Die ökonomischen Grundlagen der Mutterherrschaft,” in Neue Zeit, No. 4, XVI. Jahrg., I. Band (Stuttgart, 1897); Ploss, “Ueber das Heirathsalter der Frauen bei verschiedenen Völkern,” in Mittheilungen der Ver. für Erdkunde, 1872 (Leipzig, 1873); Redslob, Levirats-Ehe bei den Hebräern (Leipzig, 1836); Danks, “Marriage Customs of the New Britain Group,” in Journal of Anth. Inst., XVIII, No. 3; Roth, “Significance of the Couvade,” ibid., XXII (London, 1893); Peal, “On the ‘Morong,’ as Possibly a Relic of Pre-Marriage Communism,” ibid., XXII; Ellis, “On Polyandry,” in Pop. Sci. Monthly, October, 1891; idemTschi-Speaking Peoples (London, 1887); idemEwe-Speaking Peoples (London, 1890); Brouardel, L’infanticide (Paris, 1897); Frazer, Totemism (Edinburgh, 1887); Peet, “Tribal Records in the Effigies,” in Am. Antiquarian, XV (Chicago, 1893); Lubbock, “Social and Religious Condition of the Lower Races of Man,” Rep. Smith. Inst., 1869 (Washington, 1872); Stricker, “Untersuchungen über die kriegerischen Weiber,” in Archiv für Anthropologie, V; his Amazonen in Sage und Geschichte (Berlin, 1868); Avery, “Races of the Indo-Pacific Oceans,” in Am. Antiquarian, VI (Chicago, 1884); Greenwood, The Wild Man at Home (London, n. d.); Peschel, Races of Man[37] (London, 1889); Zmigrodski’s interesting Die Mutter bei den Völkern des arischen Stammes (Munich, 1886); Peet, “Houses and House-Life among the Pre-Historic Races,” in Am. Antiquarian, X (Chicago, 1888), taking the same general view as Morgan; and his “Earliest Abodes of Men,” ibid., XV (Chicago, 1893). To bring criticism down to date read Tillier’s able and suggestive book Le mariage: sa genèse, son évolution (Paris, 1898); Tylor, “The Matriarchal Family,” in Nineteenth Century, XL, 81 (July, 1896); Kohler, Zur Urgeschichte der Ehe (Stuttgart, 1897); Giddings, Principles of Sociology (New York and London, 1896); and especially the discussions of the matriarchate, the forms of marriage, and similar topics by Abrikossoff, Westermarck, Letourneau, Kovalevski, and others in Annales de l’institut international (Paris, 1896).

A mass of materials relating to every phase of the subject for many peoples may be found in the large general works of Klemm, Cultur-Geschichte der Menschheit (Leipzig, 1843-52); Waitz-Gerland, Anthropologie der Naturvölker (Leipzig, 1860-72; 2d ed., begun 1877); Featherman, Social History of the Races of Mankind (London, 1881-91); and Ratzel, History of Mankind (London and New York, 1896-98). General summaries are given by Adams, “Primitive Rights of Women,” in Historical Essays (New York, 1891); McGee, “The Beginnings of Marriage,” in Am. Anthropologist, IX (Washington, 1896); Solotaroff, “Origin of the Family,” ibid., XI (Washington, 1898); Nadaillac, L’évolution du mariage (Paris, 1893); Brinton, “Religions of Primitive Peoples,” in his American Lectures, 2d series (New York and London, 1897); Devas, Studies in Family Life (London and New York, 1886); Lang, “Early History of the Family,” in his Custom and Myth(London, 1884); Miln, Wooings and Weddings (Chicago, 1900); and Hutchinson’s popular Marriage Customs in Many Lands (London, 1897). An earlier book, inferior though similar in scope to the one last named, is Hamilton’s Marriage Rites, Customs, and Ceremonies (London, 1822). Of little value, except as marking the beginning of attempts to write general histories, are Moore, Marriage Customs (London, 1814; 2d ed., 1820); Laumier, Cérémonies nuptiales (Paris, 1829); the anonymous Hochzeitsgebräuche aller Nationen (Swabach, 1783); and Hurtaut’s Coup d’œil anglois sur les cérémonies du mariage (Geneva, 1750), compiled from Louis de Gaya’s Cérémonies nuptiales (original ed., Paris, 1680). The subject is also treated by Schroeder, Das Recht in der geschlechtlichen Ordnung (Berlin, 1893); Gage, Woman, Church, and State (Chicago, 1893); and Mason, Woman’s Share in Primitive Culture (New York, 1894). Mucke, Horde und Familie(Stuttgart, 1895), traces the classificatory systems of kinship to original “space-relationships” in the horde camping-place, and the work is a remarkable example of ingenious though fantastic speculation on a large scale.


For the matrimonial customs of low races, especially valuable are Krause, Die Tlinkit-Indianer (Jena, 1885); Marshall, A Phrenologist amongst the Todas(London, 1873); and the magnificent volumes of Paul and Fritz Sarasin, Die Weddas von Ceylon (Wiesbaden, 1892-93). For examples of sexual practices, commonly regarded as survivals of original promiscuity, see Buch, Die Wotjäken (Helsingfors, 1882); Kohler, “Studien über Frauengemeinschaft,” in ZVR., V; Bastian, Rechtsverhältnisse (Berlin, 1872); his “Eheverhältnisse,” in ZFE., VI; and his “Matriarchat und Patriarchat,” ibid.Verhandlungen (Berlin, 1886); Ploss, Das Weib (Leipzig, 1895); his Das Kind (Leipzig, 1884); and Mantegazza’s Geschlechtsverhältnisse des Menschen, constituting with the earlier Physiologie der Liebe and Hygiene der Liebe his so-called “trilogy of love.” For the bearings of phallicism on the subject read Howard’s Sex Worship (2d ed., Washington, 1898), containing a bibliography. In this connection are also of service the works on “seignorial right,” the most elaborate monograph being Schmidt’s Jus primae noctis(Freiburg, 1881), containing a full bibliography. See also his Slavische Geschichtsquellen zur Streitfrage über das Jus Primae Noctis (Posen, 1886); his paper in ZFE., XVI; and Kohler’s criticism, ZVR., IV, V. Against its existence as a right of the mediæval lord are Veuillot, Droit du seigneur (1st ed., Paris, 1854; 3d ed., 1878); Raepsaet, Recherches (Gand, 1817); Barthélemy, “Droit du seigneur,” in Revue des questions historiques, I (Paris, 1866), a critical paper of value; and Labessade, Droit du seigneur et la rosière de Salency (Paris, 1878). In his Réponse (Paris, 1857) Delpit makes a vigorous and detailed reply to the arguments of Veuillot (early edition). See also Foras, Droit du seigneur (Chambéry, 1886); and, for comparison, read “Bibliophile’s” Les nuits d’épreuve des villageoises allemandes avant le mariage (Brussels, 1877); Grupen’s quaint De uxore theotisca (Göttingen, 1748); and Fischer’s remarkably valuable and interestingProbenächte der teutschen Bauernmädchen (Berlin and Leipzig, 1780; reprinted, Leipzig, 1898).

To “break ground” for the study of the subject it may be well in the outset to read chaps. iii and iv of Posada’s Théories modernes; Kautsky’s “Entstehung der Ehe und Familie,” in Kosmos, XII; Friedrichs, “Ursprung des Matriarchats,” in ZVR., VIII, in connection with his “Zur Matriarchatsfrage,” in ZFE., XX; and especially his “Familienstufen und Eheformen,” in ZVR., X. The literature and the theories are also reviewed by Bernhöft, “Zur Gesch. des eur. Familienrechts,”ibid., VIII; and Schurman gives an interesting summary and criticism in Ethical Import of Darwinism (New York, 1888).

For the works of Wake, Letourneau, Starcke, Westermarck, and other antagonists of the horde theory, see Bibliographical Note III.]



In the same year with the Ancient Law appeared a book which was destined to have an extraordinary influence in giving a new direction to speculation and research. This was the Mutterrecht of the Swiss scholar Johann Jacob Bachofen, whose memory is revered by many followers.[93] The author shows a wide and minute acquaintance with classic literature and the early myths; but his work is fantastic and almost wholly devoid of scientific method.[94] The material is drawn mainly from two sources: the fragmentary notices of the rules of kinship and the matrimonial customs of various peoples handed down from ancient writers, supplemented slightly through similar accounts by modern travelers; and an interpretation of the supposed symbolism of religious myths, particularly those of the Greeks.[95] The inferences derived from this second source are often far-fetched and fanciful in the extreme. Though the general results of the investigation are summarized in a short introduction, the argument is so loose, the arrangement so confusing,[40] and the style so obscure that it is with the utmost difficulty the author’s meaning can be gathered. Nevertheless it is undeniable that he has created the terminology and developed the essential elements of the communistic and gynocratic theories even in their leading details.

According to Bachofen, there are three general phases in the evolution of human sexual relations. The first is the period of aphrodistic hetairism, in which men and women have each other in common; the second is the period of demetrian mother-right or gynocracy, in which kinship and succession are in the maternal line and woman gains religious and political supremacy; and the third, the period of the patriarchate or apollonistic father-right, in which the more spiritual principle of paternity is triumphant.[96] Each of these periods is regarded as a universal culture-stage.[97]

In the first phase, or that of the unregulated communism, material motherhood is the essential fact. Fatherhood is necessarily uncertain. There is no conception of kinship between father and child. Woman, it is assumed, is exposed to the lust or sexual tyranny of man; and it is through her successful revolt against the bondage of unbridled hetairism that she attains the second stage of progress.[98] The period of demetrian gynocracy is therefore represented as a turning-point, a transitional phase, through which humanity passes from its lowest to its highest status. With it the rudiments of marriage appear, but combined with hetairism surviving in various forms or gradations. It is the woman and not the man who obeys the marriage law.[99] Indeed, strict marriage,[41] the exclusive appropriation of a woman by one man, is looked upon as an abridgment of a natural or religious right for which expiation must be rendered to the goddess whose law is violated;[100] and only thus, as a penalty or composition for the privilege of restricted intercourse, can be rationally explained those lascivious customs, such as temporary prostitution, so often found in connection with legal marriage.[101]

A difficulty, however, presents itself. The theory of Bachofen assumes, as a general fact in social evolution, that a period of promiscuity and oppression of the female sex is followed, not merely by an age of mother-right, involving as a necessary consequence of the continued uncertainty of fatherhood the recognition of kinship only in the maternal line; but by an age of gynocracy, involving the social leadership of women and eventually the political and even the military subordination of men. Woman emancipates herself and then she becomes an Amazon. “Weary of the lust of man, she first feels a longing for a securer position and a purer existence. The feeling of shame and the rage of despair inflame her to armed resistance.”[102] As “a rival to man, the Amazon became hostile to him, and began to withdraw from marriage and from motherhood. This set limits to the rule of women, and provoked the punishment of heaven and men. Thus Jason put an end to the rule of[42] the Amazons in Lemnos; thus Dionysos and Bellerophon strove together, passionately, yet without obtaining any decisive victory, until Apollo with calm superiority finally became the conqueror;”[103] and so the purer principle of fatherhood prevailed and the era of father-right appeared. But, says Bachofen, that woman should gain supremacy over man arouses our astonishment, because the fact is contrary to what we should expect from their relative physical powers. “The law of nature delivers the scepter of power to the stronger.” The paradox, however, is easily explained. “At all times woman has exerted the most powerful influence upon man, upon the culture and morals (Gesellung) of peoples,” through the direction of her mind toward the supernatural, the wonderful, and the divine. Through her possession of the mysteries of religion she deprived man of the superior position which nature had given him. “Religion is the only efficient lever of all civilization. Each elevation and depression of human life has its origin in a movement which begins in this supreme department.”[104] “Just as the child receives its first discipline from the mother, so do peoples receive it from woman. The man must serve before he can attain supremacy. To the wife alone it is given to tame the unbridled power of man and to guide him in the path of well-doing.”[105] But amazonism was a shock to the religious feeling in the stage of mother-right, just as gross hetairism was an offense in the former period.[43] Hence arose a striving for the realization of a higher conception of social relations. “It was the assertion of fatherhood which delivered the mind from natural appearances, and when this was successfully achieved, human existence was raised above the laws of material life. The principle of motherhood is common to all the species of animal life, but man goes beyond this tie in giving the pre-eminence to the power of procreation, and thus becomes conscious of his higher vocation…. In the paternal and spiritual principle he breaks through the bonds of tellurism and looks upward to the higher regions of the cosmos. Victorious fatherhood thus becomes as distinctly connected with the heavenly light as prolific motherhood is with the teeming earth.”[106]”All the stages of sexual life, from aphrodistic hetairism to the apollonistic purity of fatherhood, have their corresponding type in the stages of natural life, from the wild vegetation of the morass, the prototype of conjugal motherhood, to the harmonic law of the Uranian world, to the heavenly light which, as the flamma non urens, corresponds to the eternal youth of fatherhood. The connection is so completely in accordance with law, that the form taken by the sexual relations of life may be inferred from the predominance of one or the other of these universal substances in worship.”[107]

The theories of Bachofen have given rise to luxurious speculation. With slight modification his conclusions have been accepted by a host of faithful disciples. By others they have been criticised or abandoned. Various schemes have been constructed in the attempt to explain the sequence in which the forms of marriage and the phases of the family have historically appeared. With the literature of this speculation, so far as primitive communism is assumed, the[44] present chapter is concerned. As a rule, only the incidental or negative results of criticism will be noticed, leaving for the following two chapters the criticism originating in a wholly different view of social evolution.

It is convenient in the outset to note the importance of carefully distinguishing between the conception of mother-right, implying kinship in the female line, and that of gynocracy, denoting the supremacy of the female sex.[108] Bachofen, as already seen, uses Mutterrecht as comprehending gynocracy; while some of his followers likewise speak confidently of a time when women took social precedence of men, or even held them in political subjection. Such is the view of Giraud-Teulon, who, with Bachofen, interprets the Amazon myth as implying an age in which women exercised a decided social and political domination.[109] Lippert and Unger take a similar position.[110] On the other hand, it is maintained by a number of writers, who reject the idea of a political or military gynocracy, that the inheritance[45] of name and family rights through the mother usually gives woman a decided precedence in the sphere of social life and private law. This is the opinion of Kautsky, who declares that mother-right involves the headship of woman in the family.[111] Peschel,[112] Tylor,[113] Letourneau,[114] and Hellwald[115] hold a similar view; and with them Grosse,[116] Kohler,[117] and Friedrichs,[118] though more reserved, appear in the main to coincide. Dargun likewise rejects the idea of woman’s political supremacy, while holding that mother-right sometimes grows into a real matriarchate so far as private law is concerned.[119] The weight of evidence, however, shows that even this modified view exaggerates the advantages gained by woman under mother-right. It may be admitted that here and there—as for instance among the Sioux, the Wyandots, and some other American peoples[120]—the determination of the child’s social and legal rights through the mother has somewhat ameliorated the condition of woman. Yet[46] often, as Dargun[121] has so well shown, the same custom has not enabled her to escape social degradation or marital bondage.[122] She is rather the medium through which rights are conveyed and relations established. “Thus, for instance, among the Australians, with whom the clan of the children is, as a rule, determined by that of the mother, the husband is, to quote Mr. Curr, almost an autocrat in his family, and the children always belong to his tribe.”[123] Dr. Starcke reaches a similar conclusion. Referring to the “important place” taken by the wife among various African peoples, he declares that all which “has been said only shows that women in some instances enjoy privileges which are always enjoyed by men.”[124] In short, if among many peoples at some stage of progress research has clearly demonstrated the existence of mother-right, it has just as clearly shown that the notion of a gynocracy, of a period of female supremacy, is without historical foundation.

The theory of original communism has been accepted by many writers,[125] though examples of absolute promiscuity[47] have not been produced.[126] Its former existence is inferred from certain customs and institutions which are believed to be its survivals. Even the promiscuity which is thus assumed is not “perfectly indiscriminate,” but restricted to the members of the unorganized horde or tribe occupying a particular locality or roaming about together. Hence, significantly, it has sometimes been described as communal or group “marriage.”[127] Accordingly the horde[128] or band becomes the unit or starting-point of social development.

Many evidences of the former universality of promiscuity are brought forward. This evidence—to adopt Westermarck’s convenient analysis—”flows from two sources.[48] First, there are, in the books of ancient writers and modern travelers, notices of some savage nations said to live promiscuously; secondly, there are some remarkable customs which are assumed to be social survivals, pointing to an earlier stage of civilization when marriage did not exist.”[129] The mass of facts collected to illustrate the licentiousness of savage and barbarous tribes cannot here be dwelt upon.[130] It must suffice for the present to note that, according to recent investigation, every instance of alleged indiscriminate sexual relations appears to stop far short of absolute promiscuity.[131] So also several of the more interesting customs, regarded as direct survivals of communism, require only to be briefly mentioned. The principal argument, of course, as will presently appear, is grounded upon the existence of polyandry, and especially upon the proofs adduced of the wide prevalence of kinship reckoned through the mother’s line. For it is generally assumed that this system can arise only when paternity is uncertain. Legalized hetairism or prostitution,[132] practiced[49] under various forms and restrictions among many peoples, savage, barbarous, and civilized, is thought to be a proof of original communism.[133] The same is true of “proof-marriages,”[134] existing among the Wotjäken, Burmese, the Germans, in Loango, and elsewhere; of “temporary” marriages,[135] as among the Parthians and American Indians; and of “wife-lending,” examples of which are afforded by the Spartans, Romans, Hindus, Arabs, Eskimo, Germans, Wotjäken,[50] and many other peoples.[136] In this connection, likewise, belong those “scandalous nuptial rites” which Bachofen, Lubbock, and Giraud-Teulon regard as acts of “expiation” for marriage. According to this theory, marriage, the individual possession of a woman, was originally regarded as a violation of communal right, for which some compensation or expiation must be rendered.[137] The customs referred to[51] fall for the most part in two general classes. The first group comprises the lascivious religious rites, the so-called sacred or temple prostitution, found in connection with the worship of various deities of love and procreation, such as the Babylonian Mylitta, the Hellenic Aphrodite, the Italian Venus and the Carthaginian Moloch.[138] In the second class fall the revolting nuptial privileges, accorded in many parts of the world to priest, chieftain, or king, or to the friends of the bridegroom and sometimes to those of the bride. To these privileges in general the name of jus primae noctis has been given.[139] A curious example of[52] this practice among the American aborigines is communicated by Castañeda.[140]

The argument for original promiscuity based on the various practices just mentioned is not conclusive. Most, if not all, of them are perhaps capable of other and simpler explanations. The wife-lending, as suggested by Westermarck, may be “due merely to savage ideas of hospitality;”[141] while the custom of sacred prostitution evidently belongs “to phallic-worship, and occurred, as Mr. McLennan justly remarks, among peoples who had advanced far beyond the primitive state. The farther back we go, the less we find of such customs in India; ‘the germ only of phallic-worship shows itself in the Vedas, and the gross luxuriance of licentiousness, of which the cases referred to are examples, is of later growth.'”[142] So likewise the jus primae noctis, instead of being an expiation for an encroachment on communal right, may be more naturally explained either as an abuse of power,[143] in some cases as an evidence of hospitality,[144] or in others as a “common war-right, exercised whenever, under any circumstances,[53] capture of a woman is made by a war-party.”[145] The toleration of the custom, like that of wife-lending, may sometimes be due to the “juridical” nature of fatherhood as conceived by primitive men.[146]

On the other hand, the theory that these customs are evidences of original sexual communism has gained support from the recent researches of Spencer and Gillen in their very able and detailed book on the Native Tribes of Central Australia. Among these aborigines, the authors declare, “so far as marital relations … are concerned, we find that whilst there is individual marriage, there are, in actual practice, occasions on which the relations are of a much wider nature. We have, indeed, in this respect three very distinct series of relationships.” First we find the present “normal condition of individual marriage with the occasional existence of marital relations between the individual wife and other men of the same group as that to which her husband belongs, and the occasional existence also of still wider marital relations;” secondly “we have evidence of the existence at a prior time of actual group marriage;” and in the third place “we have evidence of the existence at a still earlier time of still wider marital relations.”[147]


But these usages are capable of a very different explanation. That they imply a primitive state of promiscuity is emphatically denied by Crawley. Like sacred prostitution, the customs of avoidance, the couvade, and marriage rites in general, according to his theory, they take their rise in the religious or superstitious ideas upon which sexual taboo rests.[148]

Adherents of the communistic theory are not entirely at one as to the phases in the development of marriage and the family. Very generally the family, regarded from the standpoint of authority and kinship, is said to pass from the unregulated horde through the maternal and the paternal to the parental or two-sided stage.[149]Thus Dargun declares that there is a tendency for the uterine system of kinship to give place to the paternal, but never the reverse.[150] Kohler takes the same position.[151] Lippert regards the history of social culture as beginning with the natural relation of mother and[55] child, producing in course of evolution, long before “marriage” arose, the “primitive family” whose principle is mother-right, and which, in turn, under various influences, generally yields to the “old family” (Altfamilie) in its origin based, not on relationship, but on patriarchal power and possession.[152] Bernhöft denies the invariable sequence of mother-right and father-right;[153] and Kautsky maintains that the two systems are parallel, not successive, developments from the hetairism of the primitive horde.[154]

Marriage also, like the family, is said to pass through several distinct phases of development. Thus, with respect to the number of persons joining in a household, Friedrichs distinguishes four “forms” of marriage which, with equal propriety, may be called forms of the family. These are group-marriage, polyandry, polygyny, and monogamy, the first three forms having several varieties.[155] But, as will hereafter appear,[156] it would be rash to infer that these forms necessarily arise in the order named. Again, with regard to the way in which it originates, marriage presents a number of successive stages. According to Kohler,[157] these are marriage by capture, marriage by purchase, religious marriage, and civil marriage. That wife-capture generally gives place to wife-purchase, and this in turn to marriage by gift, and then to the modern contract between the parents, or later between the parties themselves, is especially[56] insisted upon. Hildebrand,[158] however, reverses this order. A measure of progress he finds in what he regards as the three great industrial stages of human culture: those of the chase, pastoral life, and agriculture. In the first stage, not communism, but a tendency toward monogamy prevails. There is little notion of private property; hence covetousness is not a motive of social action. Marriages are freely formed through presents given to the parents, or even without them by simple agreement of the parties. Later, with the rise of private property, marriage by purchase and marriage by capture come into existence; though capture is always exceptional and of comparatively little importance in the history of marriage.

Similar to the view of Hildebrand, in respect to the initial stage, is the theory of Kautsky.[159] The starting-point is the horde. In this absolute equality of the sexes prevails; and the only divisions are the different generations. Neither the maternal nor the paternal line is recognized, for the children belong to the group. Not promiscuity, but “hetairism,”[160] or rather “hetairistic monogamy,” exists. Incessant feuds, however, lead to wife-capture; and wife-capture tends directly to communism, for the captured woman belongs as a slave to the band. But the rights of the band may pass to the individual. The free native woman is “wooed;” the war-captive is “fought-for;” and so she becomes the slave-wife of the strongest, who may win other wives in the same way. Marriage by capture thus conquers the original monogamy, in whose place polygyny appears, either at once, or after a transition-period of community[57] in women. Moreover, in this process may be discerned the genesis of modern individual marriage under the sanction of the law. But the consequences of wife-capture are not yet exhausted. The presence in the horde of women taken from several neighboring bands leads at once to the formation of clans and to the matriarchate; for the connection of children with the clan is naturally determined by the mother. The development of private property produces still further results. The individual may buy his wife. She becomes his chattel; and the offspring also belong to him. Thus marriage by purchase gains the victory over wife-capture; and the patriarchate triumphs over mother-right. This is the order of development in the more war-like hordes. But wife-capture does not always precede wife-purchase as a general phase. In the more peaceful and industrious groups wife-capture does not appear at all. Here hetairistic monogamy runs its natural course. Partly under the external influence of tribes where mother-right existed as the result of wife-capture, but mainly under the powerful influence of private property, the matriarchate arose. In the earlier stage kinship with the father was disregarded or unknown. Naturally, therefore, under the new condition, name and also property were transmitted to the children through the mother, with whom their physical connection was always manifest. So it appears that the conception of private property is the basis of “hetairistic mother-right” as it is of father-right; and hetairistic mother-right, as distinguished from the mother-right which owes its origin to wife-capture, implies the precedence of woman in the family.[161] “Gynocracy and patriarchalism are therefore parallel branches of the same stem,” the original hetairism of the horde: the one cannot be a further development of the other. Gynocracy, and with it polyandry, which is its[58] result,[162] is the highest stage in the evolution of hetairistic mother-right; just as polygyny and the patriarchal family are the highest stage in the evolution of father-right or the agnatic system of kinship.[163]

To the theory of Kautsky that of Dargun, already explained, bears some resemblance in important details. But Dargun rejects Kautsky’s idea of original monogamy; and he does not regard wife-purchase as the necessary source of the patriarchate, though the rise of the latter was greatly favored by it; while mother-right is especially due to the uncertainty of fatherhood.[164]

Hellwald—who in the general development of his subject and in many essential particulars agrees closely with Lippert[165]—seeks the elements of human sexual relations in those of the lower animals. Absolute promiscuity has never existed among men. The hetairism which prevailed was restricted to the immediate band or horde of kindred, which was probably never large. Thus in the horde there was “unregulated polygyny.” To the earliest sexual relations[166] of men neither “marriage” nor “family” may properly be applied; and for them no suitable name is forthcoming. In the horde the first social institution evolved was the “mother-group” or rudimentary primitive family (Urfamilie). “Mother and child,” as Lippert suggests, “these were the simplest elements of the oldest organization.” For the[59]“relation of mother and child alone is given by nature.”[167] In the form of the mother-group the family, however imperfectly constituted, precedes the state in the order of growth; although it is not until society, the state, has gained permanent form that from it the historical “family” is developed.[168] Indeed, the mother-group is “lacking in everything” which distinguishes the family according to our modern conceptions.[169] The history of the “primitive family,” so far as mother-right is concerned, shows two stages of evolution. The first stage is that of the mother-group strictly so called, through which, as Bachofen and Dargun declare, every race passes and in which all relationship is traced through the mother’s blood.[170] Absolute unity or identity of blood is the basis of the earliest human conception of relationship. Generations or stages of seniority alone (Altersstufen), not degrees of kinship, are recognized. Members of the group are of equal blood, “consanguine.”[171] Relationship with the father is as yet unknown; and there is in the outset no conception of property. Gradually, however, in the endogamous mother-group a horror of incest, of inbreeding, arises, thus leading to exogamy, which is often facilitated by the stealing of women from surrounding groups. The obtaining of foreign women next produces the clan system. Private property in land and movables arises, especially among those peoples which have attained to settled life and a knowledge of agriculture. In this way the “primitive family” enters upon its second stage—that of the matriarchate. Here we find for the first time forms of marriage[60] and the family properly so called, although rudimentary as compared with the modern institutions. The mother ceases to be merely the center of the common life; she is now the social axis around which everything revolves. Mother-right, implying kinship as well as succession to name and property exclusively in the maternal line, becomes fully established. The matriarchate, unlike the simple mother-group, is not a universal phase through which all mankind has run. In some cases the agnatic system or father-right may have followed immediately upon the earlier stage of mother-right. Incident to the matriarchate are the polygynous and polyandrous forms of the family. With these the institution of property grew apace; and so we reach the paternal system, whose triumph is powerfully aided by wife-capture. In this stage, whatever be the form of social union—whether it be called genssippe, or joint-family—it rests upon the authority of the father or patriarchal lord. Following Lippert,[172] the author prefers for this patriarchal group the name “old family” (Altfamilie); and he finds its most famous examples in Hellas and Rome. Here monogamy gained the victory; and so, under the influence mainly of Stoicism and Christianity, the foundations of modern marriage and the individual family were laid.[173]

The influence of economic forces on the evolution of matrimonial and family institutions is especially emphasized by Grosse. Restricting his examination to the conditions which lie within actual “historical or ethnological experience,” he seeks to demonstrate that the “various forms of the family correspond to the various forms of economy[61] (Wirthschaft);” that “in its essential features the character of each particular form of the family may be explained by the form of economy in which it is rooted.” For the sake of clearer analysis the peoples known to history or ethnology are arranged, not in three, but in five groups according to the leading types of industrial life. These are the lower and upper hunters, the pastoral peoples, and the lower and upper cultivators of the soil.[174] But, like Kohler, Lippert, and Hellwald,[175] the author rejects the popular theory adhered to by Hildebrand, that the chase, herding, and agriculture are three successive stages of progress through which all the races of mankind have necessarily passed. For, as a matter of fact, some pastoral peoples, and even some hunters, like the Eskimo, are more advanced in culture than various peoples who are chiefly dependent upon agriculture; and some tillers of the soil, as Hildebrand concedes, may never have passed through the pastoral stage.[176] On the other hand, Grosse distinguishes two forms of the family: the individual family (Sonderfamilie), or the community of parents and children living in a lasting and exclusive marriage relation, and the great-family (Grossfamilie), which comprises, not merely parents and children, but all descendants with their families, so far as they are not separated from it by marriage or otherwise. Examples of the “great-family” are afforded by the Romans and the Chinese; while the “individual family” is practically the only form known wherever western European culture prevails. In each form of the family either the maternal or the paternal succession (Mutterfolge or Vaterfolge) may exist; but succession must[62] not be confused with the matriarchate or with the patriarchate, each involving the idea of authority; although paternal succession usually implies paternal power, while succession in the female line does not necessarily carry with it the supremacy of the mother.

Among the peoples classed as “lower hunters,” even the most backward, exists the individual family; and in the majority of cases it is founded on monogamic marriage, for promiscuity nowhere appears. The authority of the husband is patriarchal. “He procures his wife by exchange or service; and in consequence he is her owner and lord.” The “great-family” and the gens (sippe) are also found among these peoples; but they are relatively little developed. Gentes which have become unions for protection and control of territory are father-gentes; while those in which the kinship is traced through the mother are not unions for the purposes of the common life, but for maintenance of the common name.[177] The case is practically the same for the “upper hunters.” Wife-purchase, however, is more pronounced. The individual monogamic family still predominates. Kinship through the mother is not so much a “motive for union as it is for separation of those related by blood.”[178] Here as among the lower hunters it is the paternal gens which forms an actual union for the common life; and there is “not the least ground for assuming” that a patriarchal gentile constitution has replaced an earlier matriarchal form. Among peoples leading a pastoral life, even more than with those devoted to the chase, the chief economic production lies in the hands of the man. Accordingly he has the place of power and honor. Through him descent and kinship are usually traced. Nowhere is the paternal system so one-sided and so stringently carried out as among pastoral tribes. Woman is[63] oppressed and degraded. She is bought or stolen by her lord. Polygyny, with all its attendant evils, flourishes. The individual family has a thoroughly patriarchal stamp; but it is still the most conspicuous social fact, surpassing in practical significance for the needs of the pastoral life the great-family, and far more the gens. On the contrary, among the lower cultivators woman holds an economic position at least equal in social importance to that of man. As a rule, therefore, she is no longer his slave, but his companion, sometimes even his superior. She gains a corresponding share in the control of the children. The great-family is in like manner affected by the new economic conditions. Communal agriculture gives a mighty impulse to the growth of the gentile constitution; and now among many peoples, under influence of the new and higher position of woman, the maternal gens, perhaps existing side by side with the paternal gens, is developed into a firm social, economic, and political union. In the life of the lower cultivators, if the gens thus becomes the mightiest social organization, the fact is due essentially to its economic function. With the change from communal to individual agriculture the gentile constitution is dissolved; and so among the higher cultivators the individual monogamic family has more than regained its former sway. “Thus it appears,” the author summarizes, “that under every form of culture that form of family organization prevails which is best suited to economic needs and conditions;” although, he wisely warns us, a perfect explanation of the various types of the human family can never be given until every part and function of culture which has had an influence upon the functions or the organisms of the family has been separately examined for each case.[179]

The views of Dargun, Hildebrand, and Grosse may be compared with the remarkable, but scarcely well-grounded,[64] speculation of Mucke.[180] According to his ingenious theory, men originally lived in the horde, which, so far from being a fortuitous unorganized band, in which “animal promiscuity” prevailed, was so strictly ordered as to be worthy the name of the “society of the primeval age.”[181] In the horde all are free and equal. There is no subordination of the wife, monogamy prevails; for, since every male or female has his predestined mate, there is no room for communism. The author’s treatise rests upon the fundamental assumption that primitive relationships are merely “space-relationships.”[182] They do not arise in notions of descent. They are determined by the fixed spaces occupied by each sex, generation, and individual in the Hordenlager or camping-place.[183] Every male finds his predestined wife in the corresponding room or division on the opposite side of the sleeping-space; each brother thus marrying the sister nearest to himself in the order of birth. This ideal life of the horde is brought to an end through the rise of the family. The family (from famel, a “servant”) is the very opposite of the horde of free and equal members, originating as it does in subjection and servitude. Almost simultaneously the family develops two forms, the androcratic and the gynocratic. Each originates[65] in capture[184] which, under the influence of the conception of private property, yields to purchase. In the androcratic family, the woman becomes a slave-wife; in the gynocratic, the man becomes a slave-husband.[185] Polyandry is the natural product of the gynocratic, as is polygyny of the androcratic family. Originally each of these forms of the family is part “maternal” and part “paternal,” in the ordinary sense. But gradually, under the influence of adoption, aided by purchase, the horde is broken up and modern forms of the family arise.[186]


The doctrine of the primitive horde as the starting-point of social evolution has a special interest in connection with the researches of Lewis H. Morgan and J. F. McLennan. Though their principal works appeared subsequently to that of Bachofen,[187] each has reached his conclusions independently; and each, rejecting the patriarchal family as the primordial unit, has set forth what may be called a “constructive” theory of uniform social progress. In the hands[66] of each marriage and the family are made to pass through an ascending series of phases for all mankind. Unquestionably valuable as are their contributions to the material of sociological science, seldom have there been seen more striking examples of hasty generalization than appear in the theoretical parts of their work.

This is particularly true of the theories of Morgan;[188] although in his Systems of Consanguinity he has with prodigious labor erected a monument of scientific research whose vast importance for the early history of human social relations is by no means yet definitively settled; and whose Ancient Society, aside from its speculative features, has the distinction of first clearly identifying the gentile organization of the Greeks and Romans with that of the red race of the western continents. Starting with the organization of society “on the basis of sex,” as illustrated by the so-called class or group-marriages of the Australian Kamilaroi, he proceeds to discuss at length the gentile systems of the American Indians and the classic nations.[189] Originally relationship is traced in the female line, and intermarriage is prohibited within the gens. The gens is older than the monogamic family. It cannot have the family as its constituent unit, because it is composed, not of entire families, but of parts of families.[190]

The earliest phase of sexual relations among primitive men is promiscuity. Following this are five successive[67] stages or forms of marriage and the family, shading into each other, and each running a “long course in the tribes of mankind, with a period of infancy, of maturity, and of decadence.”[191] Of these forms the first, second, and fifth are “radical,” that is, each developing a distinct system of consanguinity. These systems of consanguinity “resolve themselves into two ultimate forms, fundamentally distinct.” One is the classificatory and the other the descriptive. “Under the first, consanguinei are never described, but are classified into categories, irrespective of their nearness or remoteness in degree to Ego; and the same term of relationship is applied to all the persons in the same category.” Under the second, which came in with monogamy and prevails among the Aryan, Semitic, and Uralian peoples, “consanguinei are described either by the primary terms of relationship or a combination of these terms, thus making the relationship of each person specific.”[192] The classificatory systems of consanguinity, it should be carefully noted, are more tenacious than the forms of marriage, their nomenclatures often surviving long after the actual relationships they denote have ceased to exist.

The first form of the family in Morgan’s series is the consanguine,[193] based on the intermarriage of brothers and sisters, own and collateral, in a group. Though now extinct, this form is thought once to have been universal, rude survivals being found even in the present century among the Hawaiians. But the evidence of its former existence upon which Mr. Morgan relies as conclusive is the Malayan[68] system of consanguinity, which he assumes could only have been produced by it. This system is found among the Maoris, the Hawaiians, and other Polynesians. Anciently it may have prevailed generally in Asia; and it lies at the basis of the Chinese relationships. The Malayan system is classificatory. “The only blood-relationships are the primary,” being comprised in five categories. These are parent, child, grandparent, grandchild, brother and sister. Thus consanguine marriage “found mankind at the bottom of the scale” of social progress.

In course of time, however, its evils were perceived and the second form of the family arose. This is the Punaluan,[194] resting on the intermarriage of several sisters in a group with each other’s husbands; or on that of several brothers in a group with each other’s wives; marriage between brothers and sisters not being permitted. “The Punaluan family has existed in Europe, Asia, and America[195] within the historical period, and in Polynesia within the present century,” the most interesting example being afforded by the Hawaiians. It is an outgrowth of the consanguine family “through the gradual exclusion of own brothers and sisters from the marriage relation.”[196] With it arose the organization into gentes, whose “fundamental rules” in the archaic form are exogamy and relationship in the female line. The Punaluan family co-operating with the gentile organization,[197] produced the Turanian or Ganowánian system of consanguinity, which is also[69] classificatory.[198]This is described by Morgan as “simply stupendous,” recognizing “all the relationships known under the Aryan system, besides an additional number unnoticed by the latter.”[199]

But forces were now operating within the Punaluan family which were destined to transform it. “From the necessities of the social state,” there was more or less pairing from the first, “each man having a principal wife among a number of wives, and each woman a principal husband among a number of husbands.” Moreover, the fuller development of the gentile organism, with its rule of exogamy, tended to foster a sentiment hostile to the intermarriage of near kindred and, in other ways, to produce a scarcity of women available for marriage within the Punaluan groups, thus leading to wife-capture and wife-purchase. Under these influences arose the Syndiasmian, or third general type of the family, based upon the marriage of single pairs, often temporary and without exclusive cohabitation. It is found among the Senaca-Iroquois and many other American tribes, among the Tamils of South India, and some other races of Asia.[200] This family did not produce a distinct system of consanguinity, the peoples having it still retaining the Turanian system.[201] The next, or Patriarchal, family, like the Syndiasmian, is “intermediate,” not being “sufficiently influential upon human affairs to create a new, or modify essentially the then existing system of consanguinity.”[202] It is found particularly among the Semites and Romans, and is characterized by the “organization of a[70] number of persons, bond and free, into a family under paternal power, for the purpose of holding lands, and for the care of flocks and herds.” The Syndiasmian, and in a less degree the Patriarchal, constitute the transitional stage in the development of the Monogamic family. Its rise was especially fostered by the influence of property and the increase of the paternal power, leading to the change from the female to the male line of descent. It produced the system of consanguinity prevailing among the Uralian, Semitic, and Aryan peoples.[203]

Such, sketched in hasty outline, is the symmetrical structure which the author of the Ancient Society has erected. But it has not been able wholly to withstand the shock of adverse criticism. The argument rests on too narrow a basis of investigation, and it is sometimes contradictory in its details. Its real foundation is the assumption that the nomenclatures of the classificatory systems of relationship must necessarily denote actual relationships. The truth of this assumption, however, is not self-evident. Other explanations of their meaning, some of them simpler and far more probable, have been offered. In the first place, it is evident that Morgan was misled by Fison’s account of the Kamilaroi class-marriages.[204] Only in Australia was he able to find in existence, as he believed, a social organization upon the basis of sex. Yet it is by no means established that communal or even group-marriage has ever prevailed among the Australian aborigines. The criticism of Mr. Curr has raised doubt as to the trustworthiness of Fison’s theory, although it may not have entirely shattered it.[205] According to Curr, the[71] class-system is an ingenious arrangement to prevent close intermarriages. Even first cousins may not marry.[206] The Australian is very jealous of his wife, who may be betrothed to him in childhood. Wife-lending occurs, but it is not sanctioned by custom. The use of a single word for different relationships, as for father and father’s brother, is not an evidence of former group-marriage, but of “poverty of language.”[207] Nevertheless the Australian nomenclature is richer in terms of relationship than has been assumed by Mr. Fison. “There is hardly an Australian vocabulary in print” in which distinct translation of terms for “uncle, aunt, nephew, niece, sister-in-law, and son-in-law” do not occur.[208]

Mucke, as we have already seen, explains the classificatory system as being a survival of the primitive “space-relationships” of the primitive horde.[209] By Kautsky also its origin is traced to the horde in which “hetairistic monogamy” prevailed, and in which blood-relationship with the parents was not regarded. The classes, therefore, have nothing to do with descent, but each embraces all the individuals of a single generation under a common name.[210]

On the other hand, McLennan, in his well-known controversy with Morgan,[211] insists that the system of nomenclature is merely a “system of mutual salutations,” urging the fact that most of the peoples having it possess also “some well-defined system of blood-ties.”[212] Yet he believes that the Malayan nomenclature, which lies at the basis of Morgan’s classificatory system, “had its origin in some early[72] marriage-law.”[213] Starcke criticises this inconsistency,[214] and comes to the conclusion, after examination of the whole question, that the “nomenclature was in every respect the faithful reflection of the juridical relations which arose between the nearest kinsfolk of each tribe. Individuals who were, according to the legal point of view, on the same level with the speaker, received the same designation.”[215] In substantial harmony with this opinion are the results of Westermarck’s researches.[216] According to his view the classificatory nomenclatures are merely terms of address, used to denote the sex, relative age, or the “external, or social relationship in which the speaker stands to the person whom he addresses.”[217]

These criticisms have not gone unchallenged. More recent and more detailed examination of the classificatory nomenclatures has thrown new light on their meaning; although their origin in promiscuity or “group-marriage” has not been conclusively established. Thus Cunow, who in general accepts the former existence of group-marriage among various peoples, and even finds traces of it in Australia,[218] denies[73] that the Australian class-nomenclatures are derived from original group-relations;[219] nor are they, as Westermarck believes, ever employed as mere empty terms of polite or respectful address.[220] The class-systems arose in a very early recognition of three generations or stages of seniority, in order to hinder sexual relations between relatives in the ascending and descending line.[221] For this reason, and because of the existence among some backward tribes of significant terms of kinship, individual marriage must as a general rule have existed among the Australian natives from the “earliest times.”[222] Thus, “in its original form,” the author concludes, “the division into classes is a striking confirmation of Morgan’s theory, that the first step in the development of systems of relationship consists in the prevention of sexual union between parents and children in the wide sense.”[223] For the same reason it follows that intermarriage between the nearest collateral relatives may not have been excluded.

Much more radical are the conclusions reached by Kohler in the monograph in which, by a minute examination of Morgan’s tables and other materials, he seeks to establish the genetic relations subsisting between “totemism, group-marriage, and mother-right,” as they appear among the Dravidians, the Australians, and the American aborigines.[74] The researches of Curr and Westermarck are criticised as being too general and as lacking in rigid scientific method.[224] Abundant “survivals,” such as the levirate, wife-lending, and, above all, the class-system, seem to demonstrate the former existence of group-marriage in Australia; and in the same way the same result is reached for the other peoples considered. The “key” to the problem is found in totemism, one of the most “formative and vitalizing impulses of mankind. In totemism lies the germ of the future family and state.”[225] It is the characteristic feature of the social and religious life of the American Indians. From its very nature totemism favors the rise of mother-right and group-marriage. No person can belong to more than one totem, which is therefore of necessity exogamous. Choice must be made between the maternal and the paternal line—for totemism implies the blood-bond. This choice naturally leads directly to mother-right; since the relation of mother and child is the central fact in the genesis of social experience. The maternal system precedes the paternal, and no trustworthy examples of the opposite evolution have been discovered.[226] Furthermore, totemism leads straight to group-marriage. For if two totem-groups may intermarry, it follows that the “men of one totem may marry women of the other and vice versa.” With kinship counted in the maternal line, this fact implies that a man may mate with his own daughter; while the union of mother and son or brother and sister would be excluded because of the identity of their totem.[227]Totemism is thus a means of differentiating matrimonial classes. “The whole history of group-marriage,” the[75] author concludes, “is a history of the restriction of marriage from totem to totem by the separation of under-totems through which marriage is subjected to definite conditions.” Totemistic group-marriage appears to be the “starting-point” of social culture for all the races of mankind. Whether a more primitive stage of promiscuity may have preceded it, the author in this paper does not undertake to establish.[228]

Similar results are reached by Spencer and Gillen, who have given a remarkably clear and minute account of matrimonial, tribal, and totemistic institutions in central Australia. So far as the Australians are concerned, the theory that the classificatory nomenclatures are merely terms of address is positively rejected.[229]”When, in various tribes, we find series of terms of relationship all dependent upon classificatory systems such as those now to be described, and referring entirely to a mutual relationship such as would be brought about by their existence, we cannot do otherwise than come to the conclusion that the terms do actually indicate various degrees of relationship based primarily upon the existence of inter-marrying groups…. Whatever else they may be, the relationship terms are certainly not terms of address, the object of which is to prevent the native having to employ a personal name. In the Arunta tribe, for example, every man and woman has a personal name by which he or she is freely addressed by others—that is, by any, except a member of the opposite sex who stands in the relationship of ‘Mura‘ to them, for such may only on very rare occasions speak to one another.”[230] The fundamental idea of the Australian classes is “that the women of certain groups may marry the men of[76] others.” It is a device for limiting and defining the inter-marriage of persons supposed to be of common blood.[231]

Crawley likewise holds that the terms of the classificatory systems “are terms of kinship and not terms of address;” although being “in origin terms of relation,” so far they are “terms of address also.” For “all of the terms can be used as terms of address, just as our terms of relationship can be so used.” The classificatory system, in some cases, appears clearly as a device to assist nature in confining marriage within the same generation.[232]

The results of the most recent research, therefore, seem to have advanced our knowledge of the early social condition of mankind; but not to have definitively settled the problem of the former existence of communistic marriage. One rises from an examination of the literature relating to totemism and to the classificatory systems of relationship with a feeling that much more material must be gathered and exploited before we shall escape entirely from the domain of speculation as to their full meaning.[233]



McLennan’s theory[234] starts also with man in a condition, as he conceives it, resembling that of other gregarious animals. The unions of the sexes are “probably, in the earliest times, loose, transitory, and in some degree promiscuous.”[235] There is no idea of consanguinity, though men may always have been held together by that “feeling of kindred” which arises in “filial and fraternal affection.”[236] Everywhere when society emerges from this condition kinship is traced in the female line. Originally paternity is uncertain,[237] hence the recognition of relationship through the mother must of necessity have preceded the parental and the agnatic systems;[238] and this order of development is never reversed.


Though the “filial and fraternal affections may be instinctive,” they are “obviously independent of any theory of kinship, its origin or consequences; they are distinct from the perception of the unity of blood upon which kinship depends; and they may have existed long before kinship became an object of thought.” Such a group may have been held together chiefly “by the feeling of kindred;” but the “apparent bond of fellowship … would be that they and theirs had always been companions in war or the chase—joint-tenants of the same cave or grove.”[239] Slowly the idea of blood-relationship arose; and eventually observation led to a recognition of the system of kinship through the mother. Further than this, so long as paternity remained uncertain, primitive men could not go. For the theory in question, therefore, the maternal system of kinship existing in the homogeneous “group-stock” is the social fact of fundamental importance. But primitive man was rude, ignorant, relatively helpless. “Before the invention of the arts, and the formation of provident habits, the struggle for existence must often have become very serious. The instincts of self-preservation, therefore, must have frequently predominated.” Society would tend toward one common type in which there was little place for the “unselfish affections.” In this “struggle for food and security” the balance of the sexes would be disturbed. “As braves and hunters were required and valued, it would be to the interest of every horde to rear, when possible, its healthy male children.” The weaker sex must obey the cruel law requiring the “survival of the fittest.” Hence arose the common, perhaps general, practice of female infanticide.[240] The result of this disturbance of the balance of the sexes, caused by[79]female infanticide, was a series of customs or phenomena of great sociological interest, requiring notice in the order in which they are supposed to have arisen.

1. The natural consequence of the diminution in the number of women was to enhance their relative importance. Every woman would now have several wooers. Rivalry was fierce and “unrestrained by any sense of delicacy from a copartnery in sexual enjoyments.” Quarrels and divisions within the horde would be of frequent occurrence. “These were the first wars for women, and they went to form the habits which established exogamy.” But, if complete social disintegration would be avoided, self-preservation required a compromise. A rearrangement in smaller hordes took place; and so “we arrive at last at groups within which harmony was maintained through indifference and promiscuity;” where women, “like other goods,” were held in common; and “children, while attached to mothers,” belonged to the horde.[241] We have reached in fact, as the first result of female infanticide, the “totem gens” or group of totem kindred, having a common name, taken from some plant, heavenly body, or animal, whose image is sometimes tattooed upon their bodies, and which is sometimes revered as an ancestor, sometimes as an ancestral god.[242]


2. The next institution originating in scarcity of women is polyandry, a form of sexual relations which, by the adherents of the horde-theory, is regarded as the earliest type of the family, properly so called: a family resting upon marriage, that is, upon a courtship “of men and women, protected by public opinion.”[243] It is of special interest, because in its progressive phases it is held to be the medium of transition from the maternal to the parental and agnatic systems of kinship; and, therefore, through the aid of contract in the form of wife-purchase, to modern conceptions of the marriage relation. Polyandry is represented as a universal phase of social evolution, constituting the first general modification of promiscuity.[244] Of this there are two principal forms with intermediate stages. In Nair[245] polyandry, the lowest type, we find a condition of sexual relations closely bordering upon the grossest communism. The “wife lives not with her husbands, but with her mother or brothers;” and, under certain “restrictions as to tribe and caste,” she is free to choose her husbands or lovers, these not being necessarily related to each other. Here kinship[81] and inheritance are, of course, in the female line. “No Nair knows his father, and every man looks upon his sister’s children as his heirs.”[246] In a transitional stage the wife has a home of her own, cohabiting with her husbands according to fixed rules. The highest type of polyandry is found in Tibet; and in this case there is a close approach to the essential elements of the modern family. The wife lives in the home of her husbands, who are near relatives, usually brothers. It is the prerogative of the eldest brother to choose the wife. All the children are assumed to belong to him, and, as a matter of fact, the first-born is usually known to be his. Paternity therefore is not entirely uncertain, while the father’s blood is always known.[247] The same type of polyandry, somewhat more advanced, appears among the Dravidian Todas of India. Here monogamy and polyandry exist side by side. One man, for example, may have a wife exclusively his own, while his brothers may choose one in common. Usually when one brother has taken a woman to wife, and paid the dower to her parents, the other brothers or very near relatives, all living together, may gain the rights of husbands, “if both he and she consent,” by simply providing their respective shares of the dower, which almost invariably consists of from one to four buffaloes.[248] According to Marshall, “no females, whether married or single, possess property; but, under all circumstances of life, are supported by their male relations, being fed from the common stock.” When “a father dies, his personal property is divided equally among all his sons. If the deceased, being an elder brother,[82] should have no sons, his next brother inherits all the property. All children of both sexes belong to the father’s family; and inheritance runs through the male line only. Thus (1) if a widow should re-marry, her sons by both marriages have claims on their respective father’s property. (2) If one or more women are in common to several men, each husband considers all the children as his—though each woman is mother only to her own—and each male child is an heir to the property of all of the fathers.” Moreover, there exists a kind of levirate. “In order to avoid the complications that would arise, in the matter of food and the guardianship of property, from the re-marriage of widows, if they entered other families taking their children with them, either a brother or other near relation of her deceased husband takes her to wife.” She “remained in the family” is the Toda expression.[249] “Now if we consider that one or more brothers may each become the husband of separate wives by virtue of having each paid a dower, and that younger brothers as they grow to age of maturity, and other brothers as they become widowed, may each either take separate wives or purchase shares in those already in the family, we can at once understand that any degree of complication in perfectly lawful wedded life may be met with, from the sample of the single man living with a single wife to that of the group of relatives married to a group of wives. We begin to see also why tribes following polyandrous habits endeavor to prevent further complications by making widows ‘remain in the family.'” It follows that economic motives even here are influential in molding matrimonial institutions. The same motives, the scarcity of subsistence, are likewise the main cause of the very extended female infanticide which widely prevailed previous to 1822,[83] when the Madras government “put a pressure on the Todas, in order to impel them to forsake their murderous practice.” It was formerly the habitual custom to smother “all daughters in every family, except one or sometimes two.”[250] The Todas are an in-and-in breeding people. “Although there are degrees of kinship, within whose limits the union of the sexes is held in actual abhorrence, yet half brothers and sisters are not included amongst the objectionables.”[251]

Accordingly, through polyandry, it is held, the transition to the parental or paternal system of kinship becomes possible, and sooner or later it usually takes place. Among the Todas father-right is fully established. In Tibet the inheritance goes to the brothers in the order of birth; and, failing these, to their eldest son, who, as already seen, is often known to be the eldest brother’s child. This rule, it is maintained, may readily lead to agnation. Nevertheless the primitive custom of mother-right was very tenacious. Resisted by the gentile organization and the blood-feud, the transition was slow and painful. It was facilitated by contract and initiation.[252] A woman might be bought with the understanding that the children should belong, not to her own clan, but to that of her husband. Or, when contract alone was not sufficient to overcome the resistance of religion and the blood-feud, the same result might be obtained by purchase, followed by initiation into the sacred rites of the husband’s kindred.[253] Moreover, as in Tibet and among the Todas, wife-purchase[84] or its survival is sometimes found in connection with polyandry.[254]

McLennan believes that Tibetan polyandry has been nearly, if not quite, universal, and that it is an “advance upon the Nair type.” Many evidences of its alleged actual existence in present and former times are adduced; and where the institution is not found reliance is placed upon the presence of certain customs, such as the Niyoga, or the “appointed daughter,” of the Hindus, the Hebrew levirate, and the inheritance by brothers, which are held to be its survivals.[255]

3. The disparity in the number of women would next produce the custom of wife-capture. The normal condition of primitive men is assumed to be that of strife.[256] Women would naturally be sought as the most valuable of the spoils of war. This would lead to polygyny. Since there can be[85] no certainty as to fatherhood where the practice of seizing the women from hostile tribes obtains, wife-capture is the means of maintaining the system of counting kinship through the women only; and the existence of that system, at some time, must be inferred wherever wife-capture or its form in the marriage ceremony is discovered.

4. Wife-capture leads directly to exogamy, or the rule of not marrying within the group of recognized kindred; that is, at first, among those having the same totem. Exogamy is therefore not regarded as the result of a prejudice against intermarriage of those related by blood. For a time, doubtless, marriage within and without the group was practiced indifferently, as pleasure or opportunity favored. But eventually the possession of a foreign woman was looked upon as the more honorable or respectable; and so at last marriage within the kindred was entirely forbidden. With the rise of wife-capture the original homogeneity of the group gave place to a growing heterogeneity. Soon many alien stocks were represented in the horde. Where polygyny existed, or where several wives were taken in succession, the same family might comprise children representing several totems. These children like their mothers were counted as foreigners. Thus a modified form of exogamy arose. “So far as the system of infanticide allowed, the hordes contained young men and women accounted of different stocks, who might intermarry consistently” with the original rule of exogamy. “Hence grew up a system of betrothals, and of marriage by sale and purchase.” But the effect of the system of kinship through males, when it superseded the maternal system, was to “arrest the progress of heterogeneity,” and to “restore the original condition of affairs among exogamous races, as regards both the practice of capturing wives and the evolution of the forms of capture.”[257]


It would be ungrateful not to acknowledge freely the service which McLennan and his adherents have rendered to the social history of mankind. They have brought to light a mass of very important facts which it is highly beneficial for us to know. It cannot be denied that wife-capture, exogamy, and the custom of taking kinship from the mother have very widely prevailed among primitive races. It is not so certain, however, that the right explanation of their origin or of their relation to one another has been given. In the first place, criticism, notably that of Herbert Spencer,[258] has detected fatal weakness and inconsistency in the argument by which Mr. McLennan has sought to establish his theory. It is doubtful, for instance, whether female infanticide has been so important a factor in social evolution.[259] But, granting that it has generally prevailed, it is hard to[87] see how this would greatly disturb the “balance of the sexes.” For “tribes in a state of chronic hostility are constantly losing their adult males, and the male mortality so caused is usually considerable. Hence the killing many female infants does not necessitate lack of women: it may merely prevent excess.” McLennan’s fundamental “assumption is therefore inadmissible.”[260] Again it is held that female infanticide, “rendering women scarce, led at once to polyandry within the tribe, and the capturing of women from without.” But “where wife-stealing is now practiced it is commonly associated with polygyny;”[261] while conversely, polyandry does not “distinguish wife-stealing tribes,” such as the Tasmanians, Australians, Dakotas, and Brazilians. “Contrariwise, though it is not a trait of peoples who rob one another of their women, it is a trait of certain rude peoples who are habitually peaceful;” for instance, the Eskimo, “who do not even know what war is.” Furthermore, if wife-capture and exogamy are at once practiced by a cluster of adjacent tribes, the scarcity of women would not be relieved. Inevitably the weaker tribes would “tend toward extinction;” and in the meantime, if a part only of their female infants were killed, they must deliberately “rear the remainder for the benefit” of their enemies.[262] Nor, as Starcke has pointed out, is there anything in a “scarcity of women which could lead a community accustomed to promiscuous intercourse to adopt polyandry; on the contrary, such a scarcity would make it more difficult to set limits” to promiscuity. “Marriage, or the exclusive possession of one[88] woman by one or more men, would become more easy in proportion to the increase in the number of women, since the conflict between the lusts of the men would necessarily become less intense.”[263] McLennan believes that exogamy has “been practiced at a certain stage among every race of mankind;” and that endogamy, or the custom of marrying within the kindred, is a “form reached through a long series of social developments.”[264] Yet, inconsistently with this, he admits that “the separate endogamous tribes are nearly as numerous, and they are in some respects as rude, as the separate exogamous tribes.” He goes even farther, declaring that among a variety of tribes, belonging to “one and the same original stock,” endogamy and exogamy are found existing side by side.[265]

Such are some of the results gained simply from an examination of the reasoning of McLennan. They have been here enumerated, not only because they afford an excellent illustration of the extreme complexity of social problems, but also because they may warn us against the perils of hasty speculation. It is not merely in matters of detail that the doctrine of the horde and promiscuity has met with resistance. Its very foundations have recently been powerfully assaulted by the adherents of a totally different view of the origin and development of the human family. How the phenomena of marriage and kinship will appear when seen in a new light, we shall next try to discover.



[Bibliographical Note III.—The theory of the pairing family is not so much the result of a reaction against the theory of promiscuity as it is a consequence of the perception that the problems of society can only be solved by appealing to the laws of human life and organic evolution. Hence Starcke’s highly original Primitive Family (New York, 1889), and Westermarck’s more elaborate and very able treatise on Human Marriage (London and New York, 1891), showing the influence in some passages of Starcke’s acute reasoning, may fairly be regarded as epoch-making. Important also are Wake’s Marriage and Kinship (London, 1889) and Letourneau’s L’évolution du mariage (Paris, 1888), which is supplemented by his Sociology Based upon Ethnology (London, 1893). These writers have carried farther the suggestions of Darwin, Descent of Man and Animals and Plants under Domestication; and Spencer, Principles of Sociology (New York, 1879), who had already thrown doubt upon the communistic theory. A similar general conclusion is reached in the valuable monograph of Kautsky, “Entstehung der Ehe und Familie,” in Kosmos, XII (Stuttgart, 1882), whose original “hetairism” is but “defective monogamy;” and Peschel’s Races of Man (London, 1889) tends in the same direction. Hildebrand likewise rejects the communistic theory in his inaugural address on Das Problem einer allgemeinen Entwicklungsgeschichte des Rechts und der Sitte (Graz, 1894); and this work should be read in connection with his Recht und Sitte auf den verschiedenen wirthschaftlichen Kulturstufen (Jena, 1896). On the other hand, Kulischer, in “Die geschlechtliche Zuchtwahl bei den Menschen in der Urzeit,” in ZFE., VIII, defends original communal marriage against the views of Darwin. Of special value, likewise, for this chapter are Grosse, Die Formen der Familie (Freiburg and Leipzig, 1896); which is favorably examined by Cunow, “Die ökonomischen Grundlagen der Mutterherrschaft,” in Neue Zeit, XVI; Keane, Ethnology (2d ed., Cambridge, 1896); idemMan: Past and Present(Cambridge, 1899); Frerichs, Naturgeschichte des Menschen (2d ed., Norden, 1891); Bagehot, Physics and Politics (London, 1872); as are also the works of Posada, Crawley, Lang, and Hellwald elsewhere mentioned.

For the family among the lower animals in addition to Letourneau, Hellwald, and Westermarck, consult Brehm, Tierleben (Leipzig and[90] Vienna, 1891); his Bird-Life (London, 1874); Herman Müller, Am Neste (Berlin, 1881); Schäffle, Bau und Leben des socialen Körpers (Tübingen, 1881); Espinas, Des sociétés animales(2d ed., 1878); Groos, Die Spiele der Thiere (Jena, 1896), or the English translation (New York, 1898); and Wagner, “Die Kulturzüchtung des Menschen gegenüber der Naturzüchtung im Tierreich,” in Kosmos, 1886, I. In this connection read also Houzeau, Études sur les facultés mentales des animaux (Mons, 1872); Vignoli, Ueber das Fundamentalgesetz des Intelligenz im Tierreiche (Leipzig, 1879); and Salt, Animals’ Rights (New York, 1894).

On the problems of sex and kinship mentioned in the text see Geddes and Thompson, Evolution of Sex (New York, n. d.); Ellis, Man and Woman (London, 1896); Finck, Primitive Love (New York, 1899), vigorously attacking some of Westermarck’s theories; his Romantic Love and Personal Beauty (London, 1887); Duboc, Psychologie der Liebe (Hannover, 1874); Mantegazza, Physiologie der Liebe (30th ed., Berlin, 1897); Klebs, Verhältniss des männ. und weibl. Geschlechts in der Natur (Jena, 1894); Schroeder, Das Recht in der geschlechtl. Ordnung (Berlin, 1893); Thomas, “Relations of Sex to Primitive Social Control,” and his “Difference in the Metabolism of the Sexes,” both in Am. Journal of Sociology, III (1898); Sadler, The Law of Population (London, 1830); Starkweather, The Law of Sex (London, 1883); Hofacker and Notter, Uber die Eigenschaften … welche sich auf die Nachkommen vererben (Tübingen, 1827); Ploss, Das Weib (Leipzig, 1895); also his Ueber die das Geschlechtsverhältniss der Kinder bedingenden Ursachen (Berlin, 1859); Schenk, Einfluss auf das Geschlechtsverhältniss (3d ed., Magdeburg and Vienna, 1898); the brilliant monograph of Düsing, Die Regulierung des Geschlechtsverhältnisses (Jena, 1884); Huth, Marriage of Near Kin (2d ed., 1887); Lewkowitsch, “Die Ehen zwischen Geschwisterkindern and ihre Folgen,” in ZFE., VIII; and Mitchell, “Blood-Relationship in Marriage,” in Mem. of London Anth. Society, 1865, II, 402 ff.

Several important points are treated in Tylor’s Early History of Mankind (New York, 1878); and in his Method of Investigating Institutions. See also Kovalevsky, Tableau des origines et de l’évolution de la famille (Stockholm, 1890); Swinderen, De Polygynia (Groningae, 1795); and for a curiosity, read Premontval, La monogamie (1751). In general, the literature cited in Bibliographical Note II has been used, and so need not here be described.]


The researches of several recent writers, notably those of Starcke and Westermarck, confirming in part and further developing the earlier conclusions of Darwin and Spencer,[91] have established a probability that marriage or pairing between one man and one woman, though the union be often transitory and the rule frequently violated, is the typical form of sexual union from the infancy of the human race. The problem is not yet fully worked out; but if in the end the theory of original promiscuity must be abandoned, and the pairing or monogamous family accepted as the primitive social unit, it is not because of the spiritual and moral superiority of man, as compared with other animals, but because sexual communism as a primitive and general phase of life appears to be inconsistent with the biological, economic, and psychological laws which have determined the general course of organic evolution. Strongly supported and highly probable as is the pairing or monogamic theory, it must be clearly understood in the outset that it is still only a theory and has not yet reached the stage of demonstration. It will hardly do, however, to set aside the researches of its adherents as being superficial and devoid of real scientific method; for the champions of the opposite doctrine of primitive communism are nothing if not daring, and their sweeping generalizations often rest solely on comparatively few “survivals” of alleged conditions which are absolutely “prehistoric.”[266]

It may be impossible to prove that there ever was a uniform primitive state. “So long as we are within the sphere of experience,” says Starcke, “we cannot begin by assuming that there was at any time only a single human community. Experience begins with a plurality of communities, and the single community of which we are in search must be found on the indeterminate boundary between man and animals.”[267][92] Indeed, it seems certain that if we are ever to understand the character of the earliest forms of human marriage and the human family, we must begin by studying the family and marriage as they exist among other and less advanced members of the animal world.[268] Biology, declares Letourneau, is the starting-point of sociology.[269] In this view Starcke coincides. “We have no reason to regard the social life of man as a recent form. Not only do the same psychical forces which influence gregarious man also influence the gregarious animal; probability also leads us to infer that the primitive communities of mankind are derived from those of animals. Since man in so many respects only goes on to develop the previous achievements of animal experience, it may be supposed that he made use of the social experience of animals as the firm foundation of his higher advancement.” Besides, “there are human communities which are far less firmly established than those of animals;” and “it may even be asserted that the social faculty is positive in animals and negative in man,” for man is “less subservient to instinct.”[270] “If we want to find out the origin of marriage,” says Westermarck, “we have to strike into another path, the only one which can lead to the truth, but a path which is open to him alone who regards organic nature as one continued chain, the last and most perfect link of which is man. For we can no more stop within the limits of our own species, when trying to find the root of our psychical and social life, than we can understand the physical condition of the human race without taking into consideration that of the lower animals.”[271]


Accordingly three principal arguments against the existence at any time of a general state of promiscuity have been advanced:

First is the so-called zoölogical argument, based on a comparison of the sexual habits and institutions of animals with those of the lowest races of men. In the outset it is important to observe that the physical differentiation of the sexes is itself a product of the struggle for existence. This important fact is made the starting-point of the argument by which Hellwald[272] finds the elements of the human mother-group and of mother-right in earlier animal experiences. Among the lowest members of the animal kingdom there is no individual distinction of sex. That first makes its appearance when the “artistically constructed organism, in order to sustain itself in the process of evolution, is called upon to perform a wider series of functions.” Thus “when an animal is forced to greater exertion, when it must work in order to exist, when unresistingly it can no longer suffer the stream of events to press upon it, but withstands it and seeks in it to follow its own course, then the separation of the sexes appears, and, indeed, as a division of labor created by nature for the purpose of developing species.” With further evolution, male and female characteristics become more pronounced, in response to the special functions which each sex is called upon to perform. The same process continues in the case of man. To see in him anything other than the “highest and foremost representative of the animal world, one must be drunk with metaphysical nectar, and nothing is better fitted than comparative physiology to humble one’s pride in this regard.” For man’s entire physical organization is “homologous to that of the higher species of animals.” Accordingly, the lower a group of men stands on the ladder of culture, the less marked is the[94] “bodily differentiation of the sexes.” Among various backward peoples there is relatively slight difference in outward appearance between the men and the women.[273] The growth of sexual variation in physical structure keeps pace exactly with progress in civilization. This progress depends mainly on two original forces. Of these “without doubt the mightiest is hunger,” the need of nourishment. For everywhere on earth the “first thought and striving” of living beings is the “stilling of hunger.” Next to the struggle for food, the sexual and pairing impulse is the most potent factor in the genesis of society. The former influence, it is important to observe, is the more constant and the more imperative. The latter grows and becomes more acute with increase in refinement and the consequent development of the nervous system.[274] It follows that in the origin of social institutions the erotic or pairing impulse, however important, is a less cogent genetic force than the economic necessity of a food supply.

The lives of the lower animals reveal a great variety of sexual relations. The lowest form, and perhaps the most frequent, is that of unlimited promiscuity.[275]Among the invertebrates the preservation of the young is left almost wholly to chance. The duties of the parents are limited mainly to the functions of reproduction. “In the lowest[95] classes of vertebrata, parental care is likewise almost unheard of.” It “rarely happens that both parents jointly take care of their progeny.”[276] But the chelonia, or tortoise group, are “known to live in pairs;” and here we reach, among animals, the first trace of the family, properly so called. “The chelonia form, with regard to their domestic habits, a transition to the birds, as they do also from a zoölogical and, particularly, from an embryological point of view.” Who that has experienced the keen delight afforded by watching the domestic habits of birds, from the building of the nest to the teaching of the young to make the first wavering trial of its wings, cannot bear witness to the high development of marriage and the family among them? The great work of Brehm supplies abundant evidence of their human-like social life.[277] “Parental affection,” summarizes Westermarck, “has reached a very high degree of development, not only on the mother’s side, but also on the father’s. Male and female help each other to build the nest, the former generally bringing the materials, the latter doing the work. In fulfilling the numberless duties of the breeding season both birds take a share. Incubation rests principally with the mother, but the father, as a rule, helps his companion, taking her place when she wants to leave the nest for a moment, or providing her with food and protecting her from every danger. Finally, when the duties of the breeding season are over, and the result desired is obtained, a period with new duties commences. During the first few days after hatching, most birds rarely leave their young for long, and then only to procure food for themselves and their family. In cases of great danger, both parents bravely defend their offspring. As soon as the first period of helplessness is over,[96] and the young have grown somewhat, they are carefully taught to shift for themselves; and it is only when they are perfectly capable of so doing that they leave the nest and the parents.”[278] The bird family is usually monogamic, and the marriage is lasting. Birds are generally faithful to the marriage vow; and this is particularly true of the females.[279] “With the exception of those belonging to the gallinaceous family, when pairing,” they do so “once for all till either one or the other dies.[280] And Dr. Brehm is so filled with admiration for their exemplary family life that he enthusiastically declares that ‘real genuine marriage can only be found among the birds.'”[281]

With the lower mammals the union of the sexes is generally of short duration, often only for a single birth, though in several species the parents remain together even after[97] the arrival of the young. But among the higher members examples of monogamic marriage are not infrequent, such being the case with animals of prey.[282] As a rule, the quadrumana live in pairs. Gorillas, however, are said sometimes to be polygynous. “According to Dr. Savage, they live in bands, and all his informants agree in the assertion that but one adult male is seen in every band.”[283] But monogamy is perhaps most common. M. du Chaillu declares that he found “almost always one male with one female, though sometimes the old male wanders companionless.”[284] The orang-utan and the chimpanzee, like the gorilla, also live in families.[285] Of a truth, promiscuity is far from universal in the pre-human stage.

Yet it would be easy to overestimate the value of the argument based upon the sexual relations of the lower animals. But it will not do with Kohler and Lippert to set it aside as entirely irrelevant.[286] Upon the precedents afforded by “anthropomorphic” species in particular, as Hellwald justly insists, no “slight weight should be placed;” for these are “not merely the highest organized animals, but they must also be regarded as the nearest animal relatives of man.”[287] Indeed, the transition from the family as it exists among the quadrumana to that of the least-developed races of man is not abrupt, although the lowest examples of mankind yet observed are advanced beyond the supposed primitive human stage. The broad characteristics[98] of the one are the characteristics of the other. The “relations of the sexes are, as a rule, of a more or less durable character.” There is conjugal affection. The immediate care of the children belongs to the mother. “Among mammals as well as birds,” declares Espinas, “maternal love is the corner-stone of the family.”[288] The father is the protector and provider, although paternal love is more slowly developed. Like the male among the lower animals, savage or barbarous man may be “rather indifferent to the welfare of his wife and children, … but the simplest paternal duties are, nevertheless, universally recognized. If he does nothing else, the father builds the habitation, and employs himself in the chase and in war.”[289]

But the argument for the pre-human origin of the elements of marriage and the family does not rest merely upon precedents of sexual habits. It is based rather upon the entire experience of animals in the hard struggle for existence. That struggle, as Hellwald suggests, forced upon them primarily the problem of food-supply, the need of a sort of economic co-operation, more lasting in its results than the pairing instinct. It is the entire social, mental, and moral product of animal experience, of living together, so well described among others by Espinas, Schäffle, Groos, and Wundt, which man in some measure inherited as a rich legacy from his humbler predecessor.[290] Accordingly Westermarck believes that marriage was probably “transmitted to[99] man from some ape-like ancestor, and that there never was a time when it did not occur in the human race.”[291] With Starcke, and in harmony with the view of Hellwald already quoted, he holds that marriage and the family cannot rest upon the sexual impulse alone. This is too transitory. Among animals it is obvious that “it cannot be the sexual instinct that keeps male and female together for months and years,” for the “generative power is restricted to a certain season;” and it seems highly probable that among men a pairing season prevailed in ancient times. Thus the “wild Indians of California, belonging to the lowest races on earth,” are said to “have their rutting seasons as regularly as have the deer, the elk, the antelope, or any other animals.”[292] According to Powers, the California Kabinapek “are extremely sensual. In the spring when the wild clover is lush and full of blossoms and they are eating it to a satiety after the famine of winter, they become amorous. This season, therefore, is a literal Saint Valentine’s Day with them, as with the natural beasts and birds of the forest.”[293] The Tasmanians, the Australian Watch-an-dies, and various other peoples appear to show evidences of the same habit.[294] Vignoli reaches a similar conclusion. “The family union in which man originally finds himself is not an essentially human but likewise an animal fact, since that mode of common social life is found with the greater part of animals and always[100] among the higher. It is the necessity of rearing the young which unites the parents and gives them a common life for a shorter or longer period; indeed in some species this marriage of love and care continues throughout their whole existence. Hence the fact of family sociality is not an exclusive product of humanity, but of the universal laws of the whole animal life upon the earth. Let it not be asserted that in man affection between the sexes and toward their offspring … is more active, more intense, and more lasting; for it manifests itself with equal strength and sometime with equal duration between animals and toward their young. Thus man loves, cohabits, and lives socially in a primitive family community only because he is an animal and moreover an animal higher in the organic series. So the fact of the family is consummated according to the necessity of cosmic laws governing a great part of the reproductive and social activity of the animal kingdom.”[295]

According to Starcke, “we are in some respects disposed to underestimate the great influence which sexual matters exert on all the concerns of social life, and the attempt is sometimes made to sever it from moral life, as a matter of which we are constrained to admit the practical existence, although, from the ideal point of view, it ought not to be. On the other hand, its influence on primitive communities has been greatly overrated.” The sexual instinct, however powerful, is “devoid of the conditions which form the basis of the leading tendencies in which man’s struggle for existence must be fought out.” Hence primitive marriage does not rest upon the tender sentiment which we call love,[296] but “as hard and dry as private life itself,” it has its “origin in the most concrete and prosaic requirements.” The “common[101] household,” he continues, “in which each had a given work to do, and the common interest of obtaining and rearing children were the foundations upon which marriage was originally built.”[297] Therefore, according to this view, marriage appears to be a kind of contractual relation from the beginning.[298] The conclusions of Westermarck on this point are in substantial harmony with those of Starcke: “The prolonged union of the sexes is, in some way or other, connected with parental duties…. The tie which joins male and female is an instinct developed through the powerful influence of natural selection.” This instinct as well as parental affection are “thus useful mental dispositions which, in all probability, have been acquired through the survival of the fittest.” So he concludes that “it is for the benefit of the young that male and female continue to live together. Marriage is therefore rooted in family, rather than family in marriage.”[299] Hence it is that among many peoples “true conjugal life does not begin before a child is born;” and there are other races who “consider that the birth of a child out of wedlock makes it obligatory for the parents to marry.”[300]


As a result of the first argument, then, marriage appears as a fundamental institution, whose beginnings are anterior to the dawn of human history. But there is need of a new definition, one broad enough to satisfy the demands of science. For most existing definitions are of a “merely juridical or ethical nature, comprehending either what is required to make the union legal, or what, in the eye of an idealist, the union ought to be.” Hence Westermarck defines marriage, from a scientific point of view, as a “more or less durable connection between male and female, lasting beyond the mere act of propagation till after the birth of offspring;” and Starcke, in like spirit, declares that marriage in the widest sense is “only a connection between man and woman which is of more than momentary duration, and as long as it endures they seek for subsistence in common.”[301]

The second or physiological argument may be very briefly stated. It rests upon the evidence, referred to by Sir Henry Maine, that promiscuous intercourse between the sexes “tends nowadays to a pathological condition very unfavorable to fecundity; and infecundity, amid perpetually belligerent savages, implies weakness and ultimate destruction.”[302] Thus Dr. Carpenter, “who visited the West Indies before the abolition of slavery, well remembers the efforts of the planters to form the negroes into families, as the promiscuity into which they were liable to fall produced infertility, and[103] fertility had become important to the slave-owner through the prohibition of the slave-trade.”[303] Again “it is a well-known fact that prostitutes very seldom have children, while, according to Dr. Roubaud, those of them who marry young easily become mothers.”[304] Furthermore, as Westermarck urges, “in a community where all the women equally belonged to all the men, the younger and prettier ones would of course be most sought after, and take up a position somewhat akin to that of the prostitutes of modern society.”[305] Nor is the objection, that “the practice of polyandry prevails among several peoples without any evil results as regards fecundity being heard of,” insuperable. For “polyandry scarcely ever implies continued promiscuous intercourse of many men with one woman;” and where it exists the relations of the woman with her husbands is often so regulated as to make the union practically monogamous.[306] In this connection also should be considered the infertility and other evils resulting from the intermarriage of near kindred.[307] For in a state of promiscuity such unions must have been very frequent; and at one stage of social development, if the theory of Morgan were to be accepted, they must have constituted the general rule.

According to Westermarck, the strongest objection to ancient promiscuity “is derived from the psychical nature of man and other animals.”[308] The third or psychological[104] argument therefore alleges the universal prevalence of sexual jealousy among the races of men.[309] Darwin declares that this passion is found among all male quadrupeds with which he is acquainted; and comes to the conclusion, therefore, that “looking far enough back in the stream of time, and judging from the social habits of man as he now exists, the most probable view is that he aboriginally lived in small communities, each with a single wife, or if powerful with several, whom he jealously guarded against all other men.”[310] That jealousy is unknown among “almost all uncivilized peoples” is, indeed, asserted by many adherents of the horde theory.[311] But a mass of evidence relating to savage and barbarous races in all parts of the world shows that such assertions are without foundation. In many tribes the suspected wife is exposed to the vengeful fury of the jealous husband. For example, among the California Indians, according to Powers, “if a married woman is seen even walking in the forest with another man than her husband she is chastised by him;” and “a repetition of the offense is generally punished with speedy death.”[312] So “among the Creek ‘it was formerly reckoned adultery, if a man took a pitcher of water off a married woman’s head and drank of it.'”[313] Women, we are told, are held in little esteem among the Innuit on the coast of Labrador; yet “the men are very jealous,” and death is often the penalty for adultery on the part of either spouse.[314][105] Magalhães, who visited “more than a hundred villages” among “thirty tribes” of Brazilian natives, some of them “already half civilized and others still entirely free from any participation in our institutions, ideas, and pre-conceived notions,” records as a result of his observations that “there exists in the Indian family all grades from institutions strict to a degree exceeding anything history tells us about down to the community of women…. Thus I know tribes where there is no marriage, and I know others in which a woman committing adultery is punished by being burned.”[315] Moreover, he emphatically warns us that he is speaking here of the “uncatechised” native, not yet demoralized by missionary influence.[316] According to Dobrizhoffer, the Abipones of Paraguay are conspicuous for “conjugal fidelity;” and they are very jealous, taking swift vengeance when infidelity is suspected.[317] Souza, who “lived in Brazil, in what is now the state of Bahia, from 1570 to 1587,”[318] says that “there are always jealousies among” the wives of the polygamous[106] Tupinambás, especially on the part of the first wife, because usually she is “older than the others and less gentle.”[319] On the other hand, the Jesuit Anchieta, who was in the same country “from 1553 until his death in 1597,” declares that women frequently abandon their consorts to take other men “without any feeling upon the part of the husbands; and I never saw and never heard of any Indian killing any of his wives on account of any feeling about adultery;” but his narrative reveals unmistakable evidence of the existence of sexual jealousies.[320]

In fact, among primitive peoples, as suggested by the preceding examples, death or other severe punishment is often the penalty for adultery. It is so in Polynesia, although the fault of the man is usually “condoned;”[321] as also in Micronesia, where the husband does not escape so easily.[322] Extraordinary precautions are sometimes taken to prevent marriage with an impure bride. Frequently the husband requires that the “woman he chooses for his wife shall belong to him, not during his life-time only, but after his death.” Hence the widespread practice of sacrificing the[107] wife at the death of the husband; and the frequent restraint upon the remarriage of widows is ascribed to the same cause.[323]

As a final result of his minute examination, Westermarck concludes that there is “not a shred of genuine evidence for the notion that promiscuity ever formed a general stage in the social history of mankind.” The hypothesis, he declares, is “essentially unscientific.” How, then, it may be asked, can the series of phenomena adduced by McLennan and others to support that hypothesis be otherwise explained?

In the first place, it is believed, the direct evidence as to the existence of races living promiscuously in ancient and modern times will not stand the test of criticism.[324] Often the statements of writers and travelers prove on examination to be erroneous. Thus, for instance, Sir Edward Belcher’s assertion, that among the Andaman Islanders “the custom is for the man and woman to remain together until the child is weaned, when they separate, and each seeks a new partner,”[325] has been “disproved by Mr. Man, who, after a very careful investigation of this people, says not only that they are strictly monogamous, but that divorce is unknown, and conjugal fidelity till death not the exception but the rule among them.”[326] Sometimes the “facts adduced are not really instances of promiscuity.” This appears to be true, as already seen, of the alleged Australian group-marriages. So also the “communism” practiced among the Cahyapós,[108] “who seem to be the most numerous tribe of the central plateaux of Brazil,” turns out on examination to be something very different from promiscuity, resembling more the “temporary” marriages already mentioned, though combined with polygyny. “The communism of wives among them,” says Magalhães,[327] “is as follows: The woman as soon as she reaches the age at which she is permitted to have relations with a man, conceives by the one who pleases her. During the period of gestation and nursing she is maintained by the father of the child, who may have others in similar charge and these others during similar periods live in the same cabin. As soon as the woman begins to work she is free to conceive by the same man or she may procure another, the charge of supporting the earlier offspring passing to the latter.”[328] This institution, it is clear, involves considerable social regulation. Indeed we are particularly warned that “by communism of women is not to be understood anything like prostitution…. This distinction is the more important for the proper comprehension of the savage family, since it is certain that in those same tribes where this communism exists, prostitutes are held in great displeasure.” The custom “is a mode of family existence that they judge best according to their ideas and means of living.” With it Magalhães contrasts the “exclusiveness” of the neighboring Guatos of the river Plate, in “Brazilian Paraguay,” who are not monogamous, each man having “one, two, or three wives according to his ability in hunting, fishing, and the gathering of the different fruits which make up the base of their food.” The women are exceedingly modest. “If a Guato woman brought us a fish, some game, wild fruit,” or in any way sought “something of ours that she wanted, she did it always with her eyes[109] fixed on the ground or turned toward her husband.” The related Chambioás of the Amazon valley are even more severe. Among them women are burned for adultery; and in their “widows’ men” they have a curious device for the preservation of domestic peace.[329] All these tribes “guard with great caution against, and some even punish with death, the union of the two sexes before the complete puberty of the woman…. Friar Francisco assured me that the virginity of the man was strictly maintained until the epoch of his marriage, and this was not allowed before he was twenty-five years of age, without even this being the ordinary thing: marriage is commonly after thirty.” As a principal reason for this usage are assigned the “force and energy of the offspring.”[330]

Savage tribes are often extremely licentious; but it is significant that the most immoral are not always lowest in the scale of development. Besides, it is well known that “contact with a higher culture, or more properly, the dregs of it, is pernicious to the morality of peoples living in a more or less primitive condition.”[331]Nor can promiscuity as a general social stage be assumed from the existence of some tribes whose sexual relations are but slightly restrained, since, as just seen, there are others, not otherwise more advanced, remarkable for the chastity of the wedded as well as the unwedded life.[332]

The indirect evidence of a former stage of unrestricted[110] sexual relations, based on the existence of certain customs assumed to be its survival, particularly female kinship, exogamy, and polyandry, turns out on examination to be even less convincing than that obtained from direct observation. Primitive man is usually influenced by extremely simple motives; and the great fault of speculation has been the assignment of remote and complex causes for phenomena which are often capable of easier explanation. “The most important features of the life of a community,” Starcke observes, “are due to forces at once simple and universal.”[333]


Such is the case with attempts to account for kinship in the female line. McLennan thinks it “inconceivable” that it can be due to any cause other than uncertainty of fatherhood; and he holds therefore that it must have preceded the paternal system.[334] Careful research, however, has shown[111] that these assumptions are far from axiomatic. In the first place, the acute criticism of Friedrichs is deserving of special attention. Among a number of low races where relationship with the begetter is not recognized he finds that certainty of fatherhood through securing the fidelity of the wife nevertheless exists. The number is small, but a single certain example, he insists, is sufficient to refute McLennan’s hypothesis. Such an example is provided by Semper[335] in the case of the people of the Palau Islands; and it is all the more convincing because here it is only the wife who is prohibited from general sexual intercourse, while young girls may give free play to their desires, and in a measure this is not merely suffered, but even enjoined by social custom.[336] Indeed, savages know well how to secure chastity on the part of their women by such “naïve arts” as infibulation, so realistically described by Ploss in his well-known book on woman.[337]

While not denying that uncertainty of fatherhood may have been influential in some cases, Spencer argues that without this assumption it is perfectly natural that the child should be named from the mother with whom it spends its early life; and where exogamy prevails the custom would become a convenient rule for determining who are marriageable women within the group; for the “requirement that a wife shall be taken from a foreign tribe readily becomes confounded with the requirement that a wife shall be of foreign blood.”[338]

Westermarck seeks a simple explanation of female kinship in the necessary relations of a child with its mother. “Especially among savages, the tie between a mother and a[112] child is much stronger than that which binds a child to the father. Not only has she given birth to it, but she has also for years been seen carrying it about at her breast. Moreover, in cases of separation, occurring frequently at lower stages of civilization, the infant children always follow the mother, and so, very often, do the children more advanced in years.”[339] Polygyny has doubtless favored the choice of the female line of descent;[340] and the odd custom of the couvade, found here and there among rude peoples, instead of being a mark of transition to the paternal system, only implies some connection or “some idea of relationship” between father and child;[341] and accordingly simpler and more probable reasons for its origin have been assigned.[342][113] Thus it may take its rise in the notion of a mysterious physical connection between the father and the child. “The well-being of the child is its object.” The father occupies the so-called lying-in bed, not as a bed of sickness “affording rest and strength after travail,” but he abstains from certain foods lest they should injure the child, and he fasts in order that his powers of endurance may be assured to it.[343] This view is strongly supported by the fact that among many primitive peoples, in various stages of advancement, the belief is found that the child springs from the father alone, the mother merely performing the function of nourishment.[344] Finally Westermarck’s generalization as to the real import of kinship through females only may be noted. The “facts adduced as examples” of this system, he declares, “imply chiefly that children are named after their mothers, not after their fathers, and that property and rank succeed exclusively in the female line.”[345]

Starcke has devoted the first half of his book to a detailed investigation of the problem of female descent, and comes to the conclusion that it depends mainly on local and economic causes. He first shows that the clan is of later origin than the family; and holds that these are by nature very different institutions. The family is juridical, established by contract, and only “in a subsidiary sense” founded on the “tie of blood between parents and children;” but the clan is a natural and homogeneous group of kindred among whom degrees of relationship are not counted. It is an exclusive group into which the child is born; and “it is absolutely impossible for one person to belong to two distinct[114] clans.”[346] In the primitive stage, before the formation of clans, the family must always be a more or less isolated group. The man usually chooses the place of abode, and hence paternal kinship may be easily recognized. A considerable number of rude peoples exist who take kinship from the father;[347] and Starcke is inclined to believe, though he presents rather slender evidence, that as a general rule the paternal precedes the maternal system. With the rise of the clan organization, it became absolutely necessary for the local groups to take one system or the other. So the “definition of kinship results from the conflict between clans, and teaches us nothing further with respect to the child’s relation to its parent. The choice between the two possible lines is decided by the economic organization of the community and by the local grouping of individuals, but there is not the slightest trace of the fact that considerations with respect to the sexual relations had any influence in the matter.”[348]

Starcke’s opinion that such rules of succession depend on local connections, those persons being each other’s heirs “who dwell together in one place,”[349] seems to gain some support from the result of Dr. Tylor’s examination of the so-called “beena”[350] marriage form, which requires the man to live in the family of his wife, usually serving for her as[115] did Jacob for Laban’s daughters. It is remarkable that this custom and the maternal system of kinship are commonly found together. “Thus the number of coincidences between peoples where the husband lives with the wife’s family and where the maternal system prevails, is naturally large in proportion, while the full maternal system as naturally never appears among peoples whose exclusive custom is for the husband to take his wife to his own home.”[351] Furthermore, adds Westermarck, “where both customs—the woman receiving her husband in her own hut, and the man taking his wife to his—occur side by side among the same people, descent in the former cases is traced through the mother, in the latter through the father.”[352]

It seems certain that the whole truth regarding the problems of kinship, as well as regarding the rise and sequence of the forms of the family, can be reached only through a thorough historical investigation of the industrial habits of mankind. In fact, the position of Starcke, that the rise of rules of descent and kinship depends mainly on economic and local causes, is strengthened in a remarkable way by the researches of Grosse, which have already been presented in outline. Nowhere does promiscuity appear among the peoples known to history or ethnology; and everywhere, even among the “lower hunters,” comprising the most backward members of the human kind, appears[116] the single family in which the man holds the place of power, which is often despotic. There is no definite sequence between the maternal and the paternal systems. The existence of either depends upon favorable economic conditions; and they may both appear side by side. In fact, according to Cunow, among the lower hunters, with the single exception of the Australians, the custom of female descent has not yet been discovered; and even in Australia it is precisely the most advanced tribes among which the maternal system appears. It first arises when women are sought outside of the original horde, in order to prevent intermarriage of maternal kindred.[353]

In the light of present research, therefore, the most that can safely be admitted concerning the system of kinship through females only is that it has widely existed among the races of mankind;[354] although, as elsewhere shown, its prevalence has been greatly exaggerated. Partially under the influence of monogamy and the rise of modern forms of property, it has often been superseded by the parental and sometimes by the agnatic system, although this sequence is by no means invariable. It is very archaic, yet not necessarily primitive. There is no satisfactory evidence that it implies an original stage of promiscuity. It is not impossible, in view of the facts disclosed by Starcke, that sometimes it may be preceded by a custom in which the child is named from the father, and rank and property descend in the[117] male line; while there is evidence that in the lower hunting stage, before rules of descent were yet subjects of reflection, a kind of patriarchate or androcracy generally prevailed.[355]


The case is much the same with the problem of exogamy, which is closely connected with the question of kinship. According to McLennan, as already seen, exogamy, or the prohibition of marriage within the clan, owes its rise to wife-capture occasioned by scarcity of women through female infanticide; and it is contrasted with the opposite custom of endogamy, which, it is alleged, usually implies a higher stage of civilization. This account of its origin, he thinks, is, on the whole, the “only one which will bear examination.”

How far it really falls short of the truth was first pointed out by Herbert Spencer. “In all times and places, among savage and civilized,” he says, “victory is followed by pillage. Whatever portable things of worth the conquerors find, they take…. The taking of women is manifestly but a part of this process of spoiling the vanquished. Women are prized as wives, as concubines, as drudges; and, the men having been killed, the women are carried off along with the other moveables.” Thus “women-stealing” is an “incident of successful war.” But a woman so taken has a double value. “Beyond her intrinsic value she has an extrinsic value. Like a native wife, she serves as a slave:[118] but unlike a native wife, she serves also as a trophy.” A warrior possessing such a token of prowess gains social distinction. “In a tribe not habitually at war, or not habitually successful in war, no decided effect is likely to be produced on the marriage customs.” But in warlike and successful tribes an “increasing ambition to get foreign wives” will arise. Among savages, proofs of courage are often required as qualifications for marriage. Hence it is not surprising that the abduction of a foreign woman should be accepted as the best proof of all. “What more natural than that where many warriors of the tribe are distinguished by stolen wives, the stealing of a wife should become the required proof of fitness to have one? Hence would follow a peremptory law of exogamy.” Spencer’s interpretation, therefore, agrees with that of McLennan in finding the origin of exogamy in wife-capture and in implying that usage grows into law. But it does not, “like his, assume either that this usage originated in a primordial instinct, or that it resulted from a scarcity of women caused by infanticide.[356] Moreover, unlike Mr. McLennan’s, the explanation so reached is consistent with the fact that exogamy and endogamy in many cases co-exist; and with the fact that exogamy often co-exists with polygyny;” nor does it “involve us in the difficulty raised by supposing a peremptory law of exogamy to be obeyed throughout a cluster of tribes.” For if exogamy would be likely to arise in tribes usually successful in war, peaceful tribes and those usually worsted in war, though living side by side with the successful and warlike, would be naturally led to adopt the rule of endogamy. Furthermore, among tribes not differing much from one another in strength, endogamy and exogamy may coexist. “Stealing of wives will not be reprobated, because the tribes robbed[119] are not too strong to be defied; and it will not be insisted on, because the men who have stolen wives will not be numerous enough to determine the average opinion.” Spencer also maintains that the symbol of rape in the marriage ceremony does not necessarily imply the previous existence either of foreign wife-stealing or of exogamy, assigning three other reasons which singly or together may account for it. First, it may result from a struggle for women within the tribe. “There still exist rude tribes in which men fight for possession of women, the taking possession of a woman naturally comes as a sequence to an act of capture. That monopoly which constitutes her a wife in the only sense known by the primitive man is a result of successful violence.”[357] Secondly, contrary to the view of Sir John Lubbock,[358] the symbol of rape may be due to the struggle of the bride and her female friends, many manifestations of which are found in the marriage customs of primitive races; though the dread of harsh treatment is thought to be an additional motive. But Starcke, doubting whether among savages there is much to choose between the brutality of the husband and that of the father, thinks the weeping of the woman merely symbolizes her sorrow “on leaving her former home; her close dependence on her family is expressed by her lamentation.” The existence of such symbols is not surprising in “communities of which the family bond is the alpha and omega.”[359] The ceremony of capture, finally, may be due to the resistance of the father and other male friends of the bride. A woman has an economic value, “not only as a wife but also as a daughter; and all through, from the lowest to the highest stages of social progress, we find a tacit or avowed claim to her service[120] by her father.” Her service is an object of purchase; and in English law “we have evidence that it was originally so among ourselves: in an action for seduction the deprivation of a daughter’s services is the injury alleged.”[360]

Sir John Lubbock is likewise an adherent of the view that exogamy originates in wife-capture; but he connects his explanation with his peculiar theory of the communistic family, and it cannot therefore be accepted, if that theory is to be rejected.[361] He holds that originally all the men and women of a tribe lived in sexual communism and individual marriage was looked upon “as an infringement of communal right.” But “if a man captured a woman belonging to another tribe he thereby acquired an individual and peculiar right to her, and she became his exclusively.” In this way, the practice of capturing foreign wives led to individual marriage, and its evident advantages eventually produced the rule of exogamy. Accordingly, the “symbol of rape became such an important part of the wedding ceremonies, because it was the symbol of giving up the woman to become the exclusive possession of one man.”[362] McLennan, however, criticises this view on the ground that “in almost all cases the form of capture is the symbol of a group act—of a siege, or a pitched battle, or an invasion of a house by an armed band.” Seldom does it represent a capture by an individual. “On the one side are the kindred of the husband; on the other the kindred of the wife.” Furthermore, if women were commonly captured by the men of a group or parties of them, as he justly observes, it is hard to see how an individual who had captured a woman could appropriate her more easily than he could appropriate any woman of[121] his own group for whom he had a fancy.[363] Very different is the explanation offered by Tylor, who regards exogamy as the primitive mode of alliance and “political self-preservation.” “Among tribes of low culture there is but one means known of keeping up permanent alliance, and that means is intermarriage.” Often the alternative has been “marrying out” or “being killed out.” Endogamy, on the other hand, “is a policy of isolation, cutting off a horde or village, even from the parent stock whence it separated.”[364] That exogamy has often, perhaps generally, served the political purpose suggested by Tylor is not improbable, and his view is sustained by that of Post and Kohler;[365] but this will not account for its origin.

Both Lubbock and Spencer, it will be observed, agree with McLennan in assigning the origin of exogamy to wife-capture. On the other hand, a group of writers, differing widely on ancillary questions, unite in identifying the causes which have produced exogamy with those which, in general, have led to the establishment of forbidden degrees of consanguinity in marriage. In other words, tribal or clan exogamy is but one of many rules for the prevention of close intermarriage between kindred. It must be admitted that a profound horror of incest is now “an almost universal characteristic of mankind, the cases which seem to indicate a perfect absence of this feeling being so exceedingly rare that they must be regarded merely as anomalous aberrations from a general rule.”[366] But, from the beginning, has there been an innate aversion to the sexual union of persons closely related by blood? Is that aversion derived from experience[122] of the injurious results of such unions? Did it originally extend only to marriage and not to irregular sexual connections? Or, finally, is it the indirect result of a custom, such as wife-capture, hardening into a rule of forbidden degrees? These are questions to which very different answers have been given.

Adherents of the horde theory, of course, deny that horror of incest is a primitive instinct. Such is the view also of Spencer, who thinks that “regular relations of the sexes are results of evolution, and that the sentiments upholding them have been gradually established,”[367] though—somewhat inconsistently, as we have seen—he agrees with McLennan in regarding exogamy as the result of custom growing into law. Lubbock takes a similar position, denying that we can “attribute to savages any such farsighted ideas” as the recognition of the injurious effects of close intermarriage.[368] On the other hand, Morgan, whose consanguine family implies the absence of any primitive abhorrence of incest, considers exogamy “explainable, and only explainable as a reformatory movement to break up the intermarriage of blood relations,” thus implying that the aversion to such a union is derived from experience.[369] But knowledge which “can only be gained by lengthened observation,” Dr. Peschel believes, “is ‘unattainable by unsettled and childishly heedless races,’ among whom, nevertheless, a horror of incest is developed most strongly.”[370] Sir Henry Maine, on the contrary, “cannot see why the men who discovered the use of fire and selected the wild forms of certain animals for domestication and of vegetables for cultivation should not[123] find out that children of unsound constitution were born of nearly related parents.”[371] The researches of Starcke, and still more those of Westermarck, render it almost certain, however, that Morgan and Maine are mistaken in their view, though it may point the way to the truth.[372]

Starcke’s argument leads up to the conclusion that the basis of exogamy is to be sought in the causes which produced the clan; for between the clans of a tribe exogamy almost always prevails, and, without exception, clanless tribes are “endogamous or at least not exogamous.” Furthermore, tribes divided into clans are usually endogamous as to the tribe.[373] Now, prohibitions are found which cannot be due to “exogamy as a definition of the clan;” such is the prohibition of marriage between mother and son where agnation is in force, and “between father and daughter where the uterine line prevails.” Since, therefore, “exogamy as a definition of the clan cannot directly produce these prohibitions, which are found wherever exogamy occurs, and in some instances where it is absent,” the inference follows that exogamy must have its origin in the abhorrence of close intermarriage and the ideas to which that is due. But these ideas are not necessarily the same as those underlying “the various prohibited degrees of marriage which are now in force;” nor do they imply that the injuriousness of such unions is the ground of the aversion. “In a community in which marriage takes place between consumptive and syphilitic persons, and those affected by hereditary disease, without being condemned by public opinion, and still less by the law, it cannot be said that the condemnation of incest is[124] founded on our regard for posterity.”[374] In harmony with his view that marriage is juridical, not founded on sexual relations, he finds the origin of the horror of marriage between near kindred in the legal incongruity of such unions and in their danger to the peculiar constitution of the ancient family itself. Marriage between a brother and sister or between a mother and son would usually be impossible because the “son possesses nothing which he could offer to the father as purchase-money.” To accomplish the purpose by force would be an “unheard-of crime among savages.” A connection between a father and daughter would seldom occur, “since a father is unwilling to renounce the advantages of bestowing his daughter in marriage.”[375] “If in this way an impression arises that there is something unusual and incompatible with other ideas in marriage between such persons, an occasional calamity which befalls any of them will be enough to excite the imaginative faculty in the highest degree; and if no prohibition previously existed, the absolute condemnation of such marriages would then be pronounced.” In a word, “the intermarriage of individuals of the same family implies that persons who have no legal right to dispose of themselves and their property nevertheless agree upon such legal disposition, an encroachment which would certainly be violently opposed by primitive men.” In the same way, exogamy will arise between clans; and the co-existence of endogamy and exogamy seems to be consistently explained by this theory. “Exogamy prohibits marriage between persons who are so nearly related that they have no legal independence of each other; endogamy[125] prohibits the marriage of persons whose legal status is too remote from each other.”[376] In corroboration of his view, Starcke finds evidence that, here and there, a distinction is made between regular marriage and sexual intercourse, the former being forbidden, unless for special reasons, while the latter is allowed.[377]

If Starcke’s explanation of the origin of the dread of close intermarriage between kindred is too vague and ill supported by definite proof, his original suggestion that exogamy must take its rise in that horror is sustained and placed on a broader foundation by the singularly interesting researches of Westermarck[378]—a scholar who has rendered to social science a very important service by carrying the principles of organic evolution into the sphere of domestic institutions. He starts with the assertion that horror of incest is universal. Writers have, indeed, collected evidence which they believe points to a time when such an aversion did not exist. Thus marriage with a sister is permitted in Ceylon and Annam; in the royal families of Siam, Burma, and the Sandwich Islands; while the same custom prevailed, as is well known, among the Ptolemies of Egypt, and among the kings of ancient Persia.[379] But these unions are either “anomalous aberrations” from the general rule; or else they are allowed in order to preserve the purity of caste or the royal blood; or, in case of half-sisters, because relationship is traced in one line only;[380]while occasionally they may result from[126] “extreme isolation” or from “vitiated instincts.”[381] Everywhere prohibitions exist, though they vary greatly in the “degrees of kinship within which union is forbidden.” As a rule, “among peoples unaffected by modern civilization the prohibited degrees are more numerous than in advanced communities, the prohibitions in a great many cases referring even to all the members of the tribe or clan.”

For instance, to select a few examples from the wealth of illustration provided by Westermarck, the “Californian Gualala account it ‘poison,’ as they say, for a person to marry a cousin or an avuncular relation, and strictly observe in marriage the Mosaic table of prohibited affinities.”[382] Among the “Bogos of Eastern Africa, persons related within the seventh degree may not intermarry, whether the relationship be on the paternal or maternal side;” and a similar rule exists among the Pipiles of San Salvador. “Among the Kalmucks, no man can marry a relation on the father’s side; and so deeply rooted is this custom among them, that a Kalmuck proverb says, ‘The great folk and dogs know no relationship,’ alluding to the fact that only a prince may marry a relative.” Often clan exogamy is enforced by the severest penalties. “The Algonquins tell of cases where men, for breaking this rule, have been put to death by their nearest kinsfolk.”[383]


Westermarck next takes up the origin of prohibited degrees; and after a critical examination of the various theories to explain it, he comes to the conclusion that in no case observed is the prohibition of incest founded on conscious experience of its injurious effects. It has not come into existence as the result of observation or calculation or through education on the part of the savage. Law and custom might thus arise; and these may “prevent passion from passing into action, they cannot wholly destroy its inward power.” The home is kept pure “neither by laws, nor by customs, nor by education, but by an instinct which under normal circumstances makes sexual love between the nearest kin a psychical impossibility.” But this instinct is not an “innate aversion to marriage with near relations.” It is rather an “innate aversion to sexual intercourse between persons living very closely together from early youth;” and “as such persons are in most cases related, this feeling displays itself chiefly as a horror of intercourse between near kin.” It is not “by the degrees of consanguinity, but by the close living together that prohibitory laws against intermarriage are determined.”[384]

This theory, it will be noticed, coincides with that of Starcke in selecting local contiguity or the intimate association of family life as the fundamental fact. It differs, however, in several important particulars. The economic or legal motives are not emphasized; and Westermarck’s explanation is broader than Starcke’s, for he holds that the aversion extends to sexual connections outside of regular marriage.

It is impossible here to do more than indicate the character of the evidence by which Westermarck powerfully supports his conclusion. Among the Greenlanders, for instance, “it would be reckoned uncouth and blamable, if a lad and a[128] girl, who had served and been educated in one family, desired to be married to one another.” It is even “preferred that the contracting parties should belong to different settlements.”[385] Among the Kandhs, according to Colonel Macpherson, “marriage cannot take place even with strangers who have been long adopted into, or domesticated with, a tribe;” and the Cis-Natalian Kafirs are reputed to “dislike marriage between persons who live very closely together, whether related or not.”[386] Further proof is derived from the fact that “many peoples have a rule of exogamy, which does not depend on kinship at all.” Piedrahita, in the seventeenth century, “relates of the Panches of Bogota that the men and women of one town did not intermarry, as they held themselves to be brothers and sisters, and the impediment of kinship was sacred to them; but such was their ignorance that, if a sister were born in a different town from her brother, he was not prevented from marrying her.”[387] So also the “Yaméos, on the river Amazon, will not suffer an intermarriage between members of the same community ‘as being friends in blood, though no real affinity between them can be proved;'” and the Uaupés, of the same region, “do not often marry with relations, or even neighbours, preferring those from a distance, or even from other tribes.”[388]

The great variation in the extent of prohibited degrees found among nations is “nearly connected with their close living together.” Savage and barbarous peoples, “if they have not remained in the most primitive social condition of man, live, not in separate families, but in large households or communities, all the members of which dwell in very close[129] contact with each other.” Such are the house-communities of the American aborigines, found everywhere, from the “long houses” of the Iroquois to the vast pueblos or “cities” of Mexico and Yucatan;[389] the “joint undivided families” of the Hindus and Southern Slavs;[390] and the trevs or clan households of ancient Wales, comprising four generations living in one inclosure, whose members are forbidden to intermarry.[391] It is significant that in all such cases we find extended prohibitions of close intermarriage, which do not exist “where the family lives more separately.” In fact, there is a marked tendency, amounting almost to a law, that the larger the family or clan group, the wider is the circle of forbidden degrees; and, on the contrary, the more isolated and dispersed the manner of life, the greater is the liberty of matrimonial choice.[392]

In the same way prohibition of marriage on the ground of “affinity” or “spiritual relationship” may take place. “By association of ideas” the “feeling that two persons are intimately connected in some way” may “give rise to the notion that marriage or intercourse between them is incestuous.” A strong argument is also derived from the “classificatory system of consanguinity.” Tylor has shown that this system and the system of exogamy are, in most cases, found together. They are the “two sides of one institution.”[393]

But a deeper and still more interesting question remains: “How has this instinctive aversion to marriage between persons[130] living closely together originated?” We cannot help feeling that through his masterly solution of this difficult problem Westermarck has at last brought us very near to the truth. He finds the key to it in the biological law of similarity.[394] It is demonstrated that a “certain degree of similarity as regards the reproductive system of two individuals is required to make their union fertile and the progeny resulting from this union fully capable of propagation.” But the similarity must not be too close. A certain amount of differentiation is requisite; but the differentiation must not be too great.[395] There must be homogeneity combined with heterogeneity. Among domestic animals close interbreeding, it is well known, leads to infertility and degeneration; and Darwin’s researches prove that self-fertilization in the vegetable kingdom produces the same results.[396]There is abundant evidence tending to show that what is true of plants and the lower animals is true also of man. “Taking all these facts into consideration,” says Westermarck, in closing his argument, “I cannot but believe that consanguineous marriages, in some way or other, are more or less detrimental to the species. And here, I think, we may find a quite sufficient explanation of the horror of incest; not because man at an early stage recognized the injurious influence of close intermarriage, but because the law of natural selection must inevitably have operated. Among the ancestors of man, as among other animals, there[131] was no doubt a time when blood-relationship was no bar to sexual intercourse. But variations, here as elsewhere, would naturally present themselves; and those of our ancestors who avoided in-and-in breeding would survive, while the others would gradually decay and ultimately perish. Thus an instinct would be developed which would be powerful enough, as a rule, to prevent injurious unions. Of course it would display itself simply as an aversion on the part of individuals to union with others with whom they lived; but these, as a matter of fact, would be blood-relations, so that the result would be the survival of the fittest. Whether man inherited the feeling from the predecessors from whom he sprang, or whether it was developed after the evolution of distinctly human qualities, we do not know.”[397]

Exogamy appears, then, to be the result of natural selection, arising “when single families united in small hordes. It could not but grow up if the idea of union between persons intimately associated with one another was an object of innate repugnance.” Conversely, the law of similarity enables us to understand the coexistence of clan-exogamy[132] and tribal endogamy. The one springs from a horror of sexual union between persons who are too near; the other arises in a dislike of connection between those who are too remote. Among primitive men, and sometimes even among those well advanced in civilization, there exists a shrinking from physical contact with strange races only less violent than the aversion which the dread of incest excites. But this prejudice yields to the sympathy produced by the growing similarity of interests, ideas, sentiments, and general culture among men. Sympathy, upon which affection mainly depends, has widened the sphere of sexual selection.[398]


From the preceding analysis it will appear, we trust, that scientific examination of the problems of kinship and exogamy has disclosed something of the real origin of the laws which govern human sexual relations. The searching[133] criticism to which the theory of polyandry has been subjected, in connection with the opposite custom of polygyny, carries us still nearer the truth. For, in the light of recent research, it does not seem entirely hopeless to discover a trace of the actual sequence in which, according to natural law, the general forms of marriage and the family have been evolved.

According to McLennan, it will be remembered, polyandry originates in a scarcity of women due to female infanticide; and it is a universal phase of social progress through which transition is made from promiscuity and the system of kinship in the female line to the paternal system and higher types of family life. Furthermore, he seems to think, though on this point he is not very clear,[399] that polygyny may grow out of polyandry through the practice of capturing wives. This theory has by no means gone unchallenged.[400] It has been shown, in the first place, that the extent to which the custom of polyandry has prevailed is greatly exaggerated. Though it is found among various peoples in different parts of the world, its occurrence is on the whole comparatively rare; and the practice is much less extended than that of polygyny. Its former existence cannot be inferred from such customs as the niyoga and the levirate; for these are capable of simpler explanation.[401] It is highly probable, as Starcke urges, that they are merely expedients for procuring an heir or for conveniently regulating the succession to property and authority,[402] particularly in the joint family; but[134] there is no good reason to doubt that Spencer’s explanation is adequate in some cases. “Under early social systems,” he declares, “wives, being regarded as property,” are inherited like other possessions.[403] The procuring of an heir through a brother or some other third person harmonizes with the “juridical character of fatherhood among primitive men.”[404]

Again, not only is the general extent of polyandry limited, but even where it exists it is confined in almost every case “to a very small part of the population.”[405]It is sometimes restricted to the poorer classes, sometimes to the rich; and nearly always it is found side by side with polygyny or monogamy. There is another limitation, already noticed, which tells very strongly against the theory of its origin in promiscuity. Polyandry usually shows a tendency in the direction of monogamy. Sometimes each of the husbands lives with the wife during a certain period, while the others are absent; or frequently, “as one, usually the first married, wife in polygynous families is the chief wife;” so also, “one, usually the first, husband in polyandrous families is the chief husband.” In him authority and the property are vested, and all the children, even, are feigned to be his.[406]


In opposition to the theory of McLennan various explanations of the origin of polyandry have been advanced. Spencer regards both polygyny and polyandry as mere limitations of promiscuity. “Promiscuity may be called indefinite polyandry joined with indefinite polygyny; and one mode of advance is by diminution of the indefiniteness.” Polyandry, therefore, does not originate in scarcity of women; nor can it be due to poverty; “though poverty may, in some cases, be the cause of its continuance and spread.” It is rather one of several independent “types of marital relations emerging from the primitive unregulated state; and one which has survived where competing forms, not favored by the conditions, have failed to extinguish it.”[407] Hellwald holds a similar view.[408] Robertson Smith traces its origin to the practice of capturing or of purchasing wives in common by a group of kinsmen; and in the case of purchase, poverty or the high price of women must have exerted a favorable influence.[409] Not entirely dissimilar is the view of Wake who, rejecting the hypothesis of McLennan, believes that polyandry can be satisfactorily explained “only as being established, under the pressure of poverty, either independently or as an offshoot from the phase of punaluan group marriage in which several brothers have their wives in common.”[410] Starcke in like manner finds that it “is adapted in every[136] respect to this organization of the joint family group.” In its highest forms “it is only the eldest brother who is married,” and “the younger ones are not husbands, but merely specially authorized lovers. There is nothing to indicate that the band of brothers, as such, take a wife in common; that is, that the marriage is the act of the whole community.” Hence “polyandry belongs to the category of facts which have to do with the ordinary family communism;” and it does not forfeit its character of a marriage in which the individual does not quite lose his personality in the group.[411]

More satisfactory, from a scientific point of view, is the result of Westermarck’s inquiry. This is so, not only because we feel that he is probably right in his conclusion, but because his argument affords an excellent illustration of the success with which the statistical method may be applied to social questions. The way for a solution of the problem had been prepared by McLennan and his critics. They had established a strong probability that poverty and scarcity of women are in some intimate way connected with polyandry. Westermarck shows that there is, in fact, a close relation, but that relation is a consequence of natural selection. The ultimate causes of polyandry, he demonstrates, are identical with the forces which have produced a numerical disparity between the sexes.[412] First of all the assumption[413] that “monogamy is the natural form of human marriage because there is an almost equal number of men and women,” is proved to be untenable by an appeal to the statistics of population,[137] which reveal a considerable variation in the numerical proportion of the sexes. Among many peoples the men are greatly in majority; among others there is a corresponding surplus of women. This disparity is in part easily explainable by referring to the varying conditions of life among different peoples. The “preponderance of women,” for instance, “depends to a great extent upon the higher mortality of men” due chiefly to the “destructive influence of war” and the other dangers and hardships to which primitive men are exposed. On the other hand, the surplus of men may, in some degree, be ascribed to female infanticide and, still more, to the severe labor and harsh treatment which usually fall to the lot of women among low races.[414]

But such causes are by no means entirely adequate to account for the numerical inequality of the sexes. For, in the second place, statistics show a considerable disparity between them at birth. “Among some peoples more boys are born, among others more girls; and the surplus is often considerable.” With the Todas, for instance, are found about 100 boys to 80 girls under fourteen years of age;[415] while in Mesopotamia, Armenia, Syria, the Arabias, the Holy Land, and in various other portions of Asia, two, three, or even four women to one man are born.[416] “In Europe, the average male births outnumber the female by about five per cent…. But the rate varies in different countries. Thus, in Russian Poland, only 101 boys are born to 100 girls; whilst, in Roumania and Greece, the proportion is 111 to 100.”[417]

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