Popular Science Monthly/Volume 11/July 1877/On the Evolution of the Family II

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Popular Science Monthly Volume 11 July 1877  (1877) 
On the Evolution of the Family II
By Herbert Spencer
End of series




JULY, 1877.



AND here we come in face of the fact before obliquely glanced at, that Sir Henry Maine's hypothesis takes account of no stages in human progress earlier than the pastoral or agricultural. The groups he describes as severally formed of the patriarch, his wife, descendants, slaves, flocks, and herds, are groups implying that animals of several kinds have been domesticated. But before the domestication of animals was achieved, there passed long stages stretching back through prehistoric times. To understand the patriarchal group, we must inquire how it grew out of the less-organized groups that preceded it.

The answer is not difficult to find if we ask what kind of life the domestication of herbivorous animals entailed. Where pasture is abundant and covers large areas, the keeping of flocks and herds does not necessitate separation into very small clusters: instance the Comanches, who, with their hunting, join the keeping of cattle, which the members of the tribe combine to guard. But where pasture is not abundant, or is distributed in patches, cattle cannot be kept together in great numbers; and their owners consequently have to part. Naturally, the division of the owners will be into such clusters as are already vaguely marked off in the original aggregate: individual men with such women as they have taken possession of, such animals as they have acquired by force or otherwise, and all their other belongings, will wander hither and thither in search of food for their sheep and oxen. As already pointed out, we have, in prepastoral stages, as among the Bushmen, cases where scarcity of wild food necessitates parting into very small groups; and clearly when, instead of game and vermin to be caught, cattle have to be fed, the distribution of pasturage, here in larger, there in smaller oases, will determine the numbers of animals, and consequently of human beings, which can keep together. In the separation of Abraham and Lot we have a traditional illustration.

Thus recognizing the natural origin of the wandering family group, let us ask what are likely to become its traits. We have seen that the regulating system of a society is evolved in the course of conflicts with environing societies. Between pastoral hordes which have become separate, and in course of time alien, there must arise, as between other groups, antagonisms: caused sometimes by appropriation of strayed cattle, sometimes by encroachments upon grazing areas monopolized. But now mark a difference. In a tribe of archaic type, such ascendency as war from time to time gives to a man who is superior in strength, will, or cunning, commonly fails to become a permanent headship, since his power is regarded with jealousy by men who are in other respects his equals. It is otherwise in the pastoral horde. The tendency which war between groups has to evolve a head in each group, here finds a member prepared for the place. Already there is the father, who at the outset was, by right of the strong hand, leader, owner, master, of wife, children, and all he carried with him. In the preceding stage his actions were to some extent under check by other men of the tribe; now they are not. His sons could early become hunters and carry on their lives independently; now they cannot.

Note a second difference. Separation from other men brings into greater clearness the fact that the children are not only the wife's children, but his children; and further, since among its neighbors his group is naturally distinguished by his name, the children spoken of as members of his group are otherwise spoken of as his children. The establishment of male descent is thus facilitated. Simultaneously there is apt to come acknowledged supremacy of the eldest son: the first to give efficient aid to the father, the first to reach manhood, the first likely to marry and have children, he is usually the one on whom the powers of the father devolve as he declines and dies. Thus the average tendency through successive generations will be for the eldest male to become head of the increasing group, alike as family ruler and political ruler the patriarch.

At the same time industrial coöperation is fostered. Savages of the lowest types get roots and berries, shell-fish, vermin, small animals, etc., without joint action. Among those who, having reached the advanced hunting stage, capture large animals, a considerable combination is implied, though of an irregular kind. But on rising to the stage in which flocks and herds have to be daily pastured and guarded, and their products daily utilized, combined actions of many kinds are necessitated; and under the patriarchal rule these become regularized by apportionment of duties. This coördination of functions, and consequent mutual dependence of parts, conduce to consolidation of the group as an organic whole. Gradually it becomes impracticable for any member to carry on his life by himself, deprived not only of the family aid and protection, but of the food and clothing yielded by the domesticated animals. So that the industrial arrangements conspire with the governmental arrangements to produce a well-compacted aggregate, internally coherent and externally marked off definitely from other aggregates.

This process is furthered by disappearance of the less developed. Other things equal, those groups which are most subordinate to their leaders will succeed best in battle. Other things equal, those which, submitting to commands longer, have grown into larger groups, will thus benefit. And other things equal, advantages will be gained by those in which, under dictation of the patriarch, the industrial cooperation has been rendered efficient. So that, by survival of the fittest among pastoral groups struggling for existence with one another, those which obedience to their heads and mutual dependence of parts have made the strongest will be those to spread; and in course of time the patriarchal type will thus become well marked. Not, indeed, that entire disappearance of less-organized groups must result; since regions favorable to the process described facilitate the survival of smaller hordes, pursuing lives more predatory and less pastoral. So that there may simultaneously grow up larger clusters which develop into pastoral tribes, and smaller clusters which subsist mainly by robbing them.

Mark next how, under these circumstances, there arise certain arrangements respecting ownership. The division presupposed by individualization of property cannot be carried far without appliances which savage life does not furnish. Measures of time, measures of quantity, measures of value, are required. When from the primitive appropriation of things found, caught, or made, we pass to the acquisition of things by barter and by service, we see that approximate equality of value between the exchanged things is implied; and in the absence of recognized equivalence, which must be exceptional, there will be great resistance to barter. Among savages, therefore, property extends but little beyond the things a man can procure for himself. Kindred obstacles occur in the pastoral group. How can the value of the labor contributed by each to the common weal be measured? To-day the cowherd can feed his cattle close at hand; tomorrow he must drive them far and get back late. Here the shepherd tends his flock in rich pasture; and in a region next visited the sheep disperse in search of scanty food, and he has great trouble in getting in the strayed ones. No accounts of labor spent by either can be kept, and there are no current rates of wages to give ideas of their respective claims to shares of produce. The work of the daughter or the bondwoman, who milks and who fetches water, now from a well at hand and now from one farther off, varies from day to day; and its worth, as compared with the worths of other works, cannot be known. So with the preparation of skins, the making of clothing, the setting up of the tents. All these miscellaneous services, differing in arduousness, duration, skill, cannot be paid for in money or produce while there exists neither currency nor market in which the relative values of articles and labors may be established by competition. Doubtless a bargain for services rudely estimated as worth so many cattle or sheep may be entered into. But beyond the fact that this form of payment, admitting of but very rough equivalence, cannot conveniently be carried out with all members of the group, there is the fact that, even supposing it to be carried out, the members of the group cannot separately utilize their respective portions. The sheep have to be herded together; it would never do to send them out in small divisions, each requiring its attendant. The milk which cows yield must be dealt with in the mass—could not without great loss of labor be taken by so many separate milk-maids and treated afterward in separate portions. So is it throughout. The members of the group are naturally led into the system of giving their respective labors and satisfying from the produce their respective wants: they have to live as a corporate body. The patriarch, at once family-head, director of industry, owner of all members of the group and its belongings, regulates the labor of his dependents; and, maintaining them out of the common stock that results, is restrained in his distribution, as in his conduct at large, only by traditional custom and by the prospect of resistance and secession if he disregards too far the average opinion.

The mention of secession introduces a remaining trait of the patriarchal group. Small societies, mostly at enmity with surrounding societies, are anxious to increase the numbers of their men that they may be stronger for war. Hence sometimes female infanticide, that the rearing of males may be facilitated; hence in some places, as parts of Africa, a woman is forgiven any amount of irregularity if she bears many children; hence the fact that among the Hebrews barrenness was so great a reproach. This wish to strengthen itself by adding to its fighting-men leads each group to welcome fugitives from other groups. Everywhere, and in all times, there goes on desertion—sometimes of rebels, sometimes of criminals. Stories of feudal ages, telling of knights and men-at-arms who, being ill-treated or in danger of punishment, escape and take service with other princes or nobles, remind us of what goes on at the present day in various parts of Africa, where the dependents of a chief who treats them too harshly leave him and join some neighboring chief, and of what goes on among such wandering South American tribes as the Coroados, members of which join now one horde and now another, as impulse prompts. And that with pastoral peoples the like occurs, we have direct evidence: Pallas tells us of the Calmucks and Mongols that men oppressed by a chief desert and go over to other chiefs. Occasionally occurring everywhere, this fleeing from tribe to tribe entails ceremonies of incorporation if the stranger is of fit rank and worth—exchange of names, mingling of portions of blood, etc.—by which he is supposed to be made one in nature with those he has joined. What happens when the group, instead of being of the hunting type, is of the patriarchal type? Adoption into the tribe now becomes adoption into the family. The two being one—the family being otherwise called, as in Hebrew, "the tent"—political incorporation is the same as domestic incorporation. And adoption into the family, thus established as a sequence of primitive adoption into the tribe, long persists in the derived societies when its original meaning is lost.

And now to test this interpretation. Distinct in nature as are sundry races leading pastoral lives, we find that they have evolved this social type when subject to these particular conditions. That it was the type among early Semites does not need saying: they, in fact, having largely served to exemplify its traits. That the Aryans during their nomadic stage displayed it is implied by the account given above of Sir Henry Maine's investigations and inferences. We find it again among the Mongolian peoples of Asia; and again among wholly alien peoples inhabiting South Africa. Of the Hottentots, who, exclusively pastoral, differ from the neighboring Bechuanas and Caffres in not cultivating the soil at all, we learn from Kolben that all estates "descend to the eldest son, or, where a son is wanting, to the next male relation;" and "an eldest son may after his father's death retain his brothers and sisters in a sort of slavery." Let us note, too, that among the neighboring Damaras, who, also exclusively pastoral, are unlike in the respect that kinship in the female line still partially survives, patriarchal organization, whether of the family or the tribe, is but little developed, and the subordination small; and further, that among the Caffres, who, though in large measure pastoral, are partly agricultural, patriarchal rule, private and public, is qualified.

It would doubtless be unsafe to say that under no other conditions than those furnished by pastoral life does there arise this family type. We have no proof that it may not arise along with direct transition from the hunting life to the agricultural life. But it would appear that usually this direct transition is accompanied by a different set of changes. Where, as in Polynesia, pastoral life has been impossible, or where, as in Peru and Mexico, we have no reason to suppose that it ever existed, the political and domestic arrangements, still characterized much or little by the primitive system of descent in the female line, have acquired qualified forms of male descent and its concomitant arrangements; but they appear to have done so under pressure of the influences which habitual militancy maintains. We have an indication of this in the statement of Gomara respecting the Peruvians that "nephews inherit, and not sons, except in the case of the Incas." Still better are we shown it by sundry African states. Among the coast negroes, whose kinships are ordinarily through females, whose various societies are variously governed and most of them very unstable, male descent has been established in some of the kingdoms. The inland negroes, too, similarly retaining as a rule descent in the female line, alike in the state and in the family, have acquired in their public and private arrangements some traits akin to those derived from the patriarchal system; and the like is the case in Congo. Further, in the powerful kingdom of Dahomey, where the monarchy has become stable and absolute, male succession and primogeniture are completely established, and in the less despotically governed Ashantee partially established.

But whether the patriarchal type of family may or may not arise under other conditions, we may safely say that the pastoral life is most favorable to development of it. From the general laws of evolution it is a corollary that there goes on integration of any group of like units simultaneously exposed to forces that are like in kind, amount, and direction; and obviously the members of a wandering family, kept together by joint interests and jointly in antagonism with other such families, will become more integrated than the members of a family associated with other families in a primitive tribe, all the members of which have certain joint interests, and are jointly in antagonism with external tribes. Just as we have seen that larger social aggregates become coherent by the cooperation of their members in conflict with neighboring like aggregates, so with this smallest social aggregate constituted by the nomadic family. Of the differentiations that simultaneously arise, the same may be said. As the government of a larger society is evolved during its struggles with other such societies, so is the government of this smallest society. And as here the society and the family are one, the development of the regulative structure of the society becomes the development of the regulative family structure. Moreover, analogy suggests that the higher organization given by this discipline to the family group makes it a better component of societies afterward formed than are family groups which have not passed through this discipline. Already we have seen that great nations arise only by aggregation and reaggregation: small communities have first to acquire some consolidation and structure; then they admit of union into compound communities, which, when well integrated, may again be compounded into still larger communities; and so on. It now appears that social evolution is most favored when this process begins with the smallest groups—the families: such groups, made coherent and definite in the way described, and afterward compounded and recompounded, having originated the highest societies. An instructive analogy between social organisms and individual organisms supports this inference. In a passage from which I have already quoted a clause, Sir Henry Maine, using a metaphor which biology furnishes, says: "All the branches of human society may or may not have been developed from joint families which arose out of an original patriarchal cell; but, wherever the joint family is an institution of an Ayran race, we see it springing from such a cell, and, when it dissolves, we see it dissolving into a number of such cells:" thus implying that, as the cell is the proximate component of the individual organism, so the family is the proximate component of the social organism. But in either case this, though generally true, is not entirely true; and the qualification required is extremely suggestive. Low down in the animal kingdom exist creatures not possessing the definite cell-structure—small portions of living protoplasm without limiting membranes, and even without nuclei. There are also certain types produced by aggregation of such Protozoa; and, though it is now alleged that the individual components of one of these compound Foraminifera have nuclei, yet they have none of the definiteness of developed cells. In types above these, however, it is otherwise: every cœlenterate, molluscous, annidose, or vertebrate animal begins as a cluster of distinct, nucleated cells. Whence it would seem that the unorganized portion of protoplasm constituting the lowest animal cannot, by union with others such, furnish the basis for a higher animal; and that the simplest aggregates have to become definitely developed before they can form larger aggregates capable of much development. Similarly with societies. The tribes in which the family is vague and unsettled remain politically unorganized. Sundry partially-civilized peoples characterized by some definiteness and coherence of family structure have attained corresponding heights of social structure. And the highest organizations have been reached by nations compounded out of family groups which had previously become highly organized.


And now, limiting our attention to these highest societies, we have to thank Sir Henry Maine for showing us the ways in which many of their ideas, customs, laws, and arrangements, have been derived from those which characterized the patriarchal group.

In all cases, habits of life, when continued for many generations, mould the nature; and the resulting traditional beliefs and usages, with the accompanying sentiments, become difficult to change. Hence, on passing from the wandering pastoral life to the settled agricultural life, the patriarchal type of family, with its established traits, persisted, and gave its stamp to the social structures which gradually arose. As Sir Henry Maine says: "All the larger groups which make up the primitive societies in which the patriarchal family occurs, are seen to be multiplications of it, and to be, in fact, themselves more or less formed on its model." The divisions which grow up as the family multiplies become distinct in various degrees. "In the joint undivided family of the Hindoos, the stripes, or stocks, which are only known to European law as branches of inheritors, are actual divisions of the family, and live together in distinct parts of the common dwelling;" and similarly in some parts of Europe. In the words of another writer: "The Bulgarians, like the Russian peasantry, adhere to the old patriarchal method, and fathers and married. sons, with their children and children's children, live under the same roof until the grandfather dies. As each son in his turn gets married, a new room is added to the old building, until with the new generation there will often be twenty or thirty people living under the same roof, all paying obedience and respect to the head of the family." From further multiplication results the village community; in which the households, and in part the landed properties, have become distinct. And then, where larger populations arise, and different stocks are locally mingled, there are formed such groups within groups as those constituting, among the Romans, the family, the house, and the tribe: common ancestry being in all cases the bond.

Along with persistence of patriarchal structures under new conditions naturally goes persistence of patriarchal principles. There is supremacy of the eldest male; sometimes continuing, as in Roman law, to the extent of life-and-death power over wife and children. There long survives, too, the general idea that the offenses of the individual are the offenses of the group to which he belongs; and, as a consequence, there survives the practice of holding the group responsible and inflicting punishment upon it. There come the system of agnatic kinship, and the resulting laws of inheritance. And there develops the ancestor-worship in which there join groups of family, house, tribe, etc., that are large in proportion as the ancestor is remote. These results, however, here briefly indicated, do not now concern us; they have to be treated of more as social than as domestic phenomena.

But with one further general truth which Sir Henry Maine brings into view, we are concerned—the disintegration of the family. "The unit of an ancient society was the family," he says, and "of a modern society the individual." Now, excluding those archaic types of society in which, as we have seen, the family is undeveloped, this generalization appears to be amply supported by facts; and it is one of profound importance. If, recalling the above suggestions respecting the genesis of the patriarchal family, we ask what must happen when the causes which joined in forming it are removed, and replaced by antagonistic causes, we shall understand why this change has taken place. In the lowest groups, while there continues coöperation in war and the chase among individuals belonging to different stocks, the family remains vague and incoherent, and the individual is the unit. But when the imperfectly-formed families with their domesticated animals, and the family and the society, are thus separate into distinct groups, made identical—when the coöperations carried on are between individuals domestically related as well as socially related, then the family becomes defined, compact, organized; and its controlling agency gains strength because it is at once parental and political. This organization which the pastoral group gets by being at once family and society, and which is gradually perfected by conflict and survival of the fittest, it carries into settled life. But settled life entails multiplication into numerous such groups adjacent to one another; and in these changed circumstances each of the groups is sheltered from some of the actions which originated its organization and exposed to other actions which tend to disorganize it. Though there still arise quarrels among the multiplying families, yet, as their blood-relationship is now a familiar thought, which persists longer than it would have done had they wandered away from one another generation after generation, the check to antagonism is greater. Further, the worship of a common ancestor, in which they can now more readily join at settled intervals, acts as a restraint on their hatreds, and so holds them together. Again, the family is no longer liable to be separately attacked by enemies; but a number of the adjacent families are simultaneously invaded and simultaneously resist: coöperation among them is induced. Throughout subsequent stages of social growth this coöperation increases; and the families jointly exposed to like external forces tend to integrate. Already we have seen that by a kindred process such communities as tribes, as feudal lordships, as small kingdoms, become consolidated into larger communities; and that along with the consolidation caused by coöperation, primarily for offense and defense, and subsequently for other purposes, there goes a gradual obliteration of the divisions between them, and a substantial fusion. Here we recognize the like process as taking place with these smallest groups. Quite harmonizing with this general interpretation are the special interpretations which Sir Henry Maine gives of the decline of the patria potestas among the Romans. He points out how father and son had to perform their civil and military functions on a footing of equality wholly unlike their domestic footing; and how the consequent separate acquisition of authority, power, spoils, etc., by the son, gradually undermined the paternal despotism. Individuals of the family ceasing to work together exclusively in their unlike relations to one another, and coming to work together under like relations to state authority and to enemies, the public coöperation and subordination grew at the expense of the family cooperation and subordination. Not only militant activities, but also industrial activities in the large aggregates eventually formed, conduced to this result. In a recent work on "Bosnia and Herzegovina," Mr. Arthur J. Evans, describing the Slavonic house-communities, which are dissolving under the stress of industrial competition, says, "The truth is, that the incentives to labor and economy are weakened by the sense of personal interest in their results being subdivided."

And now let us note the marvelous parallel between this change in the structure of the social organism and a change in the structure of the individual organism. We saw that definite nucleated cells are the components which, by aggregation, lay the foundations of the higher organisms; in the same way that the well-developed simple social groups are those out of which, by composition, the higher societies are eventually evolved. Here let me add that as, in the higher individual organisms, the aggregated cells which form the embryo, and for some time retain their separateness, gradually give place to structures in which the cell-form is greatly masked and almost lost, so in the social organism the family groups and compound family groups, which were the original components eventually lose their distinguishableness, and there arise structures formed of mingled individuals belonging to many different stocks.


A question of great interest, which has immediate bearings on policy, remains: "Is there any limit to this disintegration of the family?"

Already in the more advanced nations, that process which dissolved the larger family aggregates, dissipating the tribe and the gens and leaving only the family proper, has long been completed; and already there have taken place partial disintegrations of the family proper. Along with changes which for family responsibility substituted individual responsibility in respect of offenses, have gone changes which, in some degree, have absolved the family from responsibility for its members in other respects. When by poor-laws public provision was made for children whom their parents did not or could not adequately support, society in so far assumed family functions; as also when undertaking, in a measure, the charge of parents not supported by their children. Legislation has of late further relaxed family bonds by relieving parents from the care of their children's minds, and in place of education under parental direction establishing education tinder state direction; and where the appointed authorities have found it needful partially to clothe neglected children before they could be taught, and even to whip children by police agency for not going to school,[1] they have still further substituted for the responsibility of parents a national responsibility. This recognition of the individual, even when a child, as the social unit, rather than the family, has indeed now gone so far that by many the paternal duty of the state is assumed as self-evident; and criminals are called "our failures."

Are these disintegrations of the family parts of a normal progress? Are we on our way to a condition like that reached by sundry communistic aggregates in America and elsewhere? In these, along with community of property, and along with something approaching to community of wives, there goes community in the care of offspring: the family is entirely disintegrated, and individuals are alone the units recognized. We have made sundry steps toward such an organization. Is the taking of those which remain only a matter of time?

To this question a distinct answer is furnished by those biological generalizations with which we set out. In Chapter II. were indicated the facts that, with advance toward the highest animal types, there goes increase of the period during which offspring are cared for by parents; that in the human race parental care, extending throughout infancy and childhood, becomes elaborate as well as prolonged; and that in the highest members of the highest races it continues into early manhood: providing numerous aids to material welfare, taking precautions for moral discipline, and employing complex agencies for intellectual culture. Moreover, we saw that, along with this lengthening and strengthening of the solicitude of parent for child, there grew up a reciprocal solicitude of child for parent. Among even the highest animals, of sub-human types, this aid and protection of parents by offspring is absolutely wanting. In the lower human races it is but feebly marked: aged fathers and mothers being here killed and there left to die of starvation; and it becomes gradually more marked as we advance to the highest civilized races. Are we in the course of further evolution to reverse all this? Have those parental and filial bonds, which have been growing closer and stronger during the latter stages of organic development, suddenly become untrustworthy? and is the social bond to be trusted in place of them? Are the intense feelings which have made the fulfillment of parental duties a source of high pleasure, to be now regarded as valueless? and is the sense of public duty to children at large to be cultivated by each man and woman as a sentiment better and more efficient than the parental instincts and sympathies? Possibly Father Noyes and his disciples, at Oneida Creek, will say Yes to each of these questions; but probably few others will join in the Yes—even of the many who are in consistency bound to join.

So far from expecting disintegration of the family to go further, we have reason to suspect that it has already gone too far. Probably the rhythm of change, conforming to the usual law, has carried us from the one extreme a long way toward the other extreme; and a return-movement is to be looked for. A suggestive parallel may be named. In early stages the only parental and filial kinship formally recognized was that of mother and child; after which, in the slow course of progress, was reached the doctrine of exclusive male kinship—the kinship of child to mother being ignored; after which there came in another long period the establishment of kinship to both. Similarly, from a state in which family groups were alone recognized, and individuals ignored, we are moving toward an opposite state, in which ignoring of the family and. recognition of the individual go to the extreme of making not only the mature individual the social unit, hut also the immature individual; from which extreme we may expect a recoil toward that medium state in which has been finally lost the compound family group, while there is a reinstitution, and even further integration, of the family group proper, composed of parents and offspring.


And here we come in sight of a truth on which politicians and philanthropists would do well to ponder. The salvation of every society, as of every species, depends on the maintenance of an absolute opposition between the régime of the family and the régime of the state.

To survive, every species of creature must fulfill two conflicting requirements. During a certain period each member must receive benefits in proportion to its incapacity. After that period, it must receive benefits in proportion to its capacity. Observe the bird fostering its young, or the mammal rearing its litter, and you see that imperfection and inability are rewarded; and that, as ability increases, the aid given in food and warmth becomes less. Obviously this law, that the least worthy shall receive most, is essential as a law for the immature: the species would disappear in a generation did not parents conform to it. Now mark what is, contrariwise, the law for the mature. Here individuals gain rewards proportionate to their merits. The strong, the swift, the keen-sighted, the sagacious, profit by their respective superiorities—catch prey or escape enemies, as the case may be. The less capable thrive less, and on the average of cases rear fewer offspring. The least capable disappear by failure to get prey, or from inability to escape. And by this process is maintained that average quality of the species which enables it to survive in the struggle for existence with other species. There is thus, during mature life, an absolute reversal of the principle that ruled during immature life.

Already we have seen that a society stands to its citizens in the same relation as a species to its members; and the truth which we have just seen holds of the one holds of the other. The law for the undeveloped is that there shall be most aid where there is least merit. The helpless, useless infant, extremely exigeant, must from hour to hour be fed, kept warm, amused, exercised; as during childhood and boyhood the powers of self-preservation increase, the attentions required and given become less perpetual, but still need to be great; and only with approach to maturity, when some value and efficiency have been required, is this policy considerably qualified. But when the young man enters into the battle of life he is dealt with after a contrary system. The general principle now is, that the benefits which come to him shall be proportioned to his merits. Though parental aid, not abruptly ending, may still sometimes soften the effects of this social law, yet the mitigation of them is but partial; and, apart from parental aid, this social law is but in a small degree traversed by private generosity. Then, when middle life has been reached, and parental aid has ceased, the stress of the struggle becomes greater, and the adjustment of payment to service more rigorous. Clearly with a society, as with a species, survival depends on conformity to both of these antagonist principles. Import into the family the law of the society, and let children from infancy upward have life-sustaining supplies proportioned to their life-sustaining labors, and the society disappears forthwith by death of all its young. Import into the society the law of the family, and let the life-sustaining supplies be inversely proportioned to the life-sustaining labors, and the society decays from the increase of its least worthy members, and disappearance of its most worthy members: it must fail to hold its own in the struggle with other societies, which allow play to the natural law that prosperity shall vary as efficiency.

Hence the necessity of maintaining this cardinal distinction between the ethics of the family and the ethics of the state—hence the fatal result if family disintegration goes so far that family policy and state policy become confused. Unqualified generosity must remain the principle of the family while offspring are passing through their earliest stages; and generosity, more and more qualified by justice, must remain its principle as offspring are approaching maturity. Conversely, the principle of the society must ever be, justice qualified by generosity in private actions, as far as the individual natures of citizens prompt; and unqualified justice in the corporate acts of the society to its members. However fitly in the battle of life among adults, the strict proportioning of rewards to merits may be tempered by private sympathy in favor of the inferior; nothing but evil can result if this strict proportioning is so interfered with by public arrangements that demerit profits at the expense of merit.


And now to sum up the several conclusions, connected though heterogeneous, to which our survey of the family has brought us.

That there are connections between polygyny and the militant type, and between monogamy and the industrial type, we found good evidence. Partly the relation between militancy and polygyny is entailed by the stealing of women in war; and partly it is entailed by the mortality of males and resulting surplus of females where war is constant. In societies advanced enough to have some industrial organization, the militant classes remain polygynous, while the industrial classes become generally monogamous; and an ordinary trait of the despotic ruler, evolved by habitual militancy, is the possession of numerous wives. Further, we found that even in European history this relation, at first not manifest, is to be traced. Conversely, it was shown that with increase of industrialness and consequent approach to equality of the sexes in numbers, monogamy becomes more general, because extensive polygyny is rendered impracticable. We saw, too, that there is a congruity between that compulsory coöperation which is the organizing principle of the militant type of society, and that compulsory coöperation characterizing the polygynous household; while with the industrial type of society, organized on the principle of voluntary coöperation, there harmonizes that monogamic union which is an essential condition to voluntary domestic coöperation. Lastly, these relationships were clearly shown by the remarkable fact that, in different parts of the world, among different races, there are primitive societies in other respects unadvanced, which, exceptional in being peaceful and industrial, are also exceptional in being monogamic.

Passing to the consideration of the family under its social aspects, we examined certain current theories. These imply that in the beginning there were settled marital relations, which we have seen is not the fact; that there was at first descent in the male line, which the evidence disproves; that in the earliest groups there was definite subordination to a head, which is not a sustainable proposition. Further, the contained assumptions that originally there was an innate sentiment of filial obedience, giving a root for patriarchal authority, and that originally family connection afforded the only reason for political combination, are at variance with accounts given us of the uncivilized. Recognizing the fact that if we are fully to understand the higher forms of the family we must trace them up from those lowest forms accompanying the lowest social state, we saw how, in a small separated group of persons old and young, held together by some kinship, there was, under the circumstances of pastoral life, an establishing of male descent, an increasing of cohesion, of subordination, of coöperation, industrial and defensive; and that acquirement of structure became relatively easy because domestic government and social government became identical: the influences favoring each conspiring instead of conflicting. Hence the genesis of a simple society more developed than all preceding simple societies, and better fitted for the composition of higher societies.

Thus naturally originating under special conditions, the patriarchal group with its adapted ideas, sentiments, customs, arrangements, dividing in successive generations into sub-groups holding together in larger or smaller clusters according as the environment favored, carried its organization with it into the settled state; and the efficient coördination evolved within it favored efficient coördination of the larger societies formed by aggregation. Though, as we are shown by partially-civilized kingdoms existing in Africa, and by extinct American kingdoms, primitive groups of less evolved structures and characterized by another type of family may form compound societies of considerable size and complexity, yet the patriarchal group with its higher family type is inductively proved to be that out of which the largest and most advanced societies arise.

Into communities produced by multiplication of it, the patriarchal group, carrying its supremacy of the eldest male, its system of inheritance, its laws of property, its joint worship of the common ancestor, its blood-feud, its complete subjection of women and children, long retains its individuality. But with these communities, as with communities otherwise constituted, combined action slowly leads to fusion; the lines of division become gradually less marked; and, at length, as Sir Henry Maine shows, societies which have the family for their unit of composition pass into societies which have the individual for their unit of composition.

This disintegration, first separating compound family groups into simpler ones, eventually affects the simplest: the members of the family proper more and more acquire individual claims and individual responsibilities. And the wave of change, conforming to the general law of rhythm, has among ourselves partially dissolved the relations of domestic life, and substituted for them the relations of social life. Not simply have the individual claims and responsibilities of young adults in each family come to be recognized by the state; but the state has, to a considerable degree, usurped the parental functions in respect of children, and, assuming their claims upon it, exercises coercion over them.

On looking back to the general laws of life, however, and observing the essential contrast between the principle of family life and the principle of social life, we conclude that this degree of family disintegration is in excess, and will hereafter be followed by partial reintegration.

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  1. See Times, February 28, 1877.