Popular Science Monthly/Volume 11/June 1877/On the Evolution of the Family I

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Popular Science Monthly Volume 11 June 1877  (1877) 
On the Evolution of the Family I
By Herbert Spencer




JUNE, 1877.


LET US now look at the connections between types of family and social types. Do societies of different degrees of composition habitually present different forms of domestic arrangement? Are different forms of domestic arrangement associated with the militant system of organization and the industrial system of organization?

To the first of these questions, no satisfactory answer can be given. The same marital relation occurs in the simplest groups and in the most compound groups. A strict monogamy is observed by the miserable Wood Veddahs, living so widely scattered that they can scarcely be said to have reached the social state; and the wandering Bushmen, similarly low, though not debarred polygyny, are usually monogamic. Certain settled and slightly advanced tribes, too, are monogamic; as instance the New Guinea people, and as instance also the Dyaks, who have reached a stage passing from simple into compound. And then we have monogamy habitual with nations which have become vast by aggregation and reaggregation. Polyandry, again, is not restricted to societies of one order of composition. We find it in simple groups, as among the Fuegians, the Aleutians, and the Todas; and we find it in compound groups in Ceylon, in Malabar, in Thibet. Similarly with the distribution of polygyny. It is common to simple, compound, doubly-compound, and even trebly-compound societies.

One kind of connection between the type of family and the degree of social composition may, however, be alleged. Formation of compound groups, implying greater coordination and the strengthening of restraints, implies more settled arrangements, public and private. Increasing rigidity of custom and growth of it into law, which goes along with the extending governmental organization holding larger masses together, affects the domestic relations along with the political relations; and thus renders the family arrangements, be they polyandric, polygynic, or monogamic, more definite.

Can we, then, allege special connections between the different types of family and the different social types classed as militant and industrial? None are revealed by a cursory inspection. Looking first at simple tribes, we find among the unwarlike Todas a mixed polyandry and polygyny; and among the Esquimaux, so peaceful as not even to understand the meaning of war, we find, along with monogamic unions, others that are polyandric and polygynic. At the same time, the warlike Caribs show us a certain amount of polyandry and a greater amount of polygyny. If, turning to the other extreme, we compare with one another large nations, ancient and modern, it seems that the militant character in some cases coexists with a prevalent polygyny and in other cases with a prevalent or universal monogamy. Nevertheless, we shall, on examining the facts more closely, discern general connections between the militant type and polygyny, and between the industrial type and monogamy.

But first we must recognize the truth that a predominant militancy is not so much to be measured by armies and the conquests they achieve, as by constancy of predatory activities. The contrast between the militant and the industrial is properly between a state in which life is occupied in conflict with other beings, brute and human, and a state in which life is occupied in peaceful labor—energies spent in destruction instead of energies spent in production. So conceiving militancy, we find polygyny to be its habitual accompaniment. To trace the coexistence of the two from Australians and Tasmanians on through the more developed simple societies up to the compound and doubly compound, would be tedious and is needless; for observing, as we have already done, the prevalence of polygyny in the less advanced societies, and admitting as we must their state of unceasing hostility to their neighbors, the coexistence of these traits is a corollary. That this coexistence results from causal connection is suggested by certain converse cases. Among the Dorians, a division of the New Guinea people, there is strict monogamy, with forbidding of divorce, in a primitive community comparatively unwarlike and comparatively industrial. Another instance is furnished by the Land Dyaks, who are monogamic to the extent that pologyny is an offense, and who, though given to tribal quarrels about their lands, and to the taking of heads as trophies, have such degree of industrial development that the men, instead of making war and the chase habitual occupations, do all the heavy work, and some division of trades and commercial intercourse exists. The Hill-tribes of India furnish other instances. There are the amiable Bodo and Dhimals, without military arrangements, and having no weapons but their agricultural inplements who are industrially advanced to the extent that there is exchange of services, and that the men do all the out-of-door work; and they are monogamous. Similarly the monogamous Lepchas are wholly unwarlike. Such, too, is the relation of traits in certain societies of the New World distinguished from the rest by being partially or entirely industrial. Whereas most of the aborigines of North America habitually polygynous, live solely to hunt and fight, the Iroquois had permanent villages and cultivated lands, and each of them had but one wife. More marked still is the case of the Pueblos, who, "walling out barbarism " by their ingeniously-conglomerated houses, fight only in self-defense, and when let alone engage exclusively in agricultural and other industries, and whose marital relations are strictly monogamic.

This connection of traits in the simpler societies, where not traceable directly in the inadequate descriptions of travelers, is often traceable indirectly. We have seen that there is a natural relation between constant fighting and development of chiefly power: the implication being that where, in settled tribes, the chiefly power is small, the militancy is not great. And this is the fact in those above-named communities characterized by monogamy. In Dory there are no chiefs; among the Dyaks subordination to chiefs is feeble; the headman of each Bodo and Dhimals village has but nominal authority; the Lepcha flees from coercion; and the governor of a Pueblo town is annually elected. Conversely, we see that the polygyny which prevails in simple predatory tribes persists in aggregates of them welded together by war into small nations under established rulers, and frequently acquires in them large extensions. In Polynesia it characterizes in a marked way the warlike and tyrannically-governed Feejeeans; all through the African kingdoms there goes polygyny along with developed chieftainship, rising to great heights in Ashantee and Dahomey, where the governments are coercive in extreme degrees. The like may be said of the extinct American societies: polygyny was an attribute of dignity among the rigorously-ruled Peruvians, Mexicans, Chibchas, Nicaraguans. And the old despotisms of the East were also characterized by polygyny.

Allied with this evidence is the evidence that in a primitive predatory tribe, all the men of which are warriors, polygyny is generally diffused; but in a society compounded of such tribes, polygyny continues to characterize the militant part, while monogamy begins to characterize the industrial part. This differentiation is foreshadowed even in the primitive predatory tribes; since the least militant men fail to obtain more than one wife each. And it becomes marked when, in the growing population, there arises a division between warriors and workers.

Still more clearly shall we see the connection between militancy and polygyny on recalling two facts named in the chapter on "Exogamy and Endogamy." By members of savage communities, captured women are habitually taken as additional wives or concubines, and the reputations of warriors are enhanced in proportion to the numbers thus obtained. As Mr. McLennan points out, certain early peoples permitted foreign wives (presumably along with other wives) to the military class, when wives from alien societies were forbidden to other classes. Even among the Hebrews the laws authorized such appropriations of women taken in war. The further direct connection is, that where loss of many men in frequent battles leaves a great surplus of women, the possession of more wives than one by each man conduces to the maintenance of population and the preservation of the society: continuance of polygyny being, under these circumstances, insured by the conflicts between such societies, which, other things equal, entail the disappearance of those not practising it. To which must be added the converse fact that, in proportion as decreasing militancy and increasing industrialness cause an approximate equalization of the sexes in numbers, there results a growing resistance to polygyny; since it cannot be practised by many of the men without leaving many of the rest wifeless, and causing an antagonism inconsistent with social stability. Hence monogamy is to a great extent compelled by that balance of the sexes which industrialism brings about.

Once more, the natural relation between polygyny and predominant militancy, and between monogamy and predominant industrialness, is shown by the fact that these two domestic forms harmonize in principle with the two associated political forms. We have seen that the militant type of social structure is based on the principle of compulsory coöperation, while the industrial type of social structure is based on the principle of voluntary coöperation. Now, it is clear that plurality of wives, whether the wives are captured in war or purchased from their fathers regardless of their own wills, implies domestic rule of the compulsory type: the husband is despot and the wives are slaves. Conversely, the establishment of monogamy where fewer women are taken in war and fewer men lost in war is accompanied by an increased value of the individual woman, who, even when purchased, is therefore likely to be better treated. And when, with further advance, some power of choice is acquired by the woman, there is an approach to that voluntary coöperation which characterizes this marital relation in its highest form. The domestic despotism which polygyny involves is congruous with the political despotism proper to predominant militancy; and the diminishing political coercion which naturally follows development of the industrial type is congruous with the diminishing domestic coercion which naturally follows the accompanying development of monogamy.

Probably the histories of European peoples will be cited in evidence against this view: the allegation being that, from Greek and Roman times downward, these peoples, though militant, have been monogamic. It may, however, be replied that ancient European societies, though often engaged in wars, had large parts of their populations otherwise engaged, and had industrial systems characterized by considerable division of labor and commercial intercourse. Further, there must be remembered the fact that in Northern Europe, during and after Roman times, while warfare was constant, monogamy was not universal. Tacitus admits the occurrence of polygyny among the German chiefs. Already we have seen, too, that the Merovingian kings were polygamists. Even in the Carlovingian period we read that—

"The confidence of Conan 11. was kept up by the incredible number of men-at-arms which his kingdom furnished; for you must know that here, besides that the kingdom is extensive as well, each warrior will beget fifty, since, bound by the laws neither of decency nor of religion, each has ten wives or more even." (Ermold. Nigellus, iii., ap. Scr. R. Fr., vi., 52.)

And Kœnigswarter says that "such was the persistence of legal concubinage in the customs af the people that traces of it are found at Toulouse even in the thirteenth century."

Thus considering the many factors that have coöperated in modifying marital arrangements—considering also that some societies, becoming relatively peaceful, have long retained in large measure the structures acquired during previous greater militancy, while other societies which have considerably developed their industrial structures have again become predominantly militant, causing mixtures of traits—the alleged relations are, I think, as clear as can be expected. That advance from the primitive predatory type to the highest industrial type has gone along with advance from prevalent polygny to exclusive monogamy, is unquestionable; and that decrease of militancy and increase of industrialness have been the essential cause of this change in the type of family, is shown by the fact that this change has occurred where such other supposable causes as culture, religious creed, etc., have not come into play.

The domestic relations, thus far dealt with mainly under their private aspects, have now to be dealt with under their public aspects. For, on the structure of the family, considered as a component of a society, depend various social phenomena.

The multitudinous facts grouped in foregoing chapters show that no true conception of the higher types of family, in their relations to the higher social types, can be obtained without previous study of the lower types of family in their relations to the lower social types. In this case, as in all other cases, error results when conclusions are drawn from the more complex products of evolution, in ignorance of the simpler products from which they have been derived. Already an instance has been furnished by the interpretations of primitive religions given by the reigning school of mythologists. Possessed by the ideas which civilization has evolved, and looking back on the ideas which prevailed among the progenitors of the civilized races, they have used the more complex to interpret the less complex; and when forced to recognize the entire unlikeness between the inferred early religious ideas and the religious ideas found among the uncivilized who now exist, have assumed a fundamental difference in mode of action between the minds of the superior races and the minds of the inferior races: classing with the inferior, in pursuance of this assumption, certain ancient races to which the modern world is indebted for its present advance. Though to the teachings of so called Turanians the Aryans and Semites owe their civilizations; though the Accadians had great cities, settled laws, advanced industries, arts in which four metals were utilized, and writing that had already reached the phonetic stage, while the Semites were still nomadic hordes; though the Egyptians had for some thousands of years lived as an elaborately-organized nation, approaching in many of its appliances to modern nations, and producing monuments that remain a wonder to mankind, while the Aryans were wandering with their herds in scattered groups about the Hindoo Koosh—yet these peoples are, in company with the lowest barbarians, cavalierly grouped as having radically inferior intelligences, because they show in an unmistakable way the genesis of religious ideas irreconcilable with that genesis which mythologists are led by their method to ascribe to the superior races.

All who accept the conclusions set forth in the first part of this work, will see in this instance the misinterpretation caused by analysis of the phenomena from above downward, instead of synthesis of them from below upward. They will see that in search of explanations we must go below the stage at which men had learned to domesticate cattle and till the ground.


I make these remarks by way of introduction to a criticism on the doctrines of Sir Henry Maine. While valuing his works, and accepting as true within limits the views he sets forth respecting the family under its developed form, and respecting the part played by it in the evolution of European nations, it is possible to dissent from his assumptions concerning the earliest social states, and from the derived conceptions.

As leading to error, Sir Henry Maine censures "the lofty contempt which a civilized people entertains for barbarous neighbors," which, he says, "has caused a remarkable negligence in observing them." But he has not himself wholly escaped from the effects of this sentiment. While valuing the evidence furnished by barbarous peoples belonging to higher types, and while in some cases citing confirmatory evidence furnished by certain barbarous peoples of lower types, he has practically disregarded the great mass of the uncivilized, and ignored the vast array of facts they present at variance with his theory. Though criticisms have led him somewhat to qualify the sweeping generalizations set forth in his "Ancient Law;" though, in the preface to its later editions, he refers to his subsequent work on "Village Communities" as indicating some qualifications—yet the qualifications are but small, and in great measure hypothetical. He makes light of such adverse evidence as Mr. McLennan and Sir John Lubbock give, on the ground that the part of it he deems most trustworthy is supplied by Indian Hill-tribes, which have, he thinks, been led into abnormal usages by the influences invading races have subjected them to. And, though in his "Early Institutions" he goes so far as to say that "all branches of human society may or may not have been developed from joint families which arose out of an original patriarchal cell," he clearly, by this form of expression, declines to admit that in many cases they have not been thus developed.

He rightly blames earlier writers for not exploring a sufficiently wide area of induction. But he has himself not made the area of induction wide enough; and that substitution of hypothesis for observed fact which he ascribes to his predecessors is, as a consequence, observable in his own work. Respecting the evidence available for framing generalizations, he says:

"The rudiments of the social state, so far as they are known to us at all, are known through testimony of three sorts—accounts by contemporary observers of civilizations less advanced than their own, the records which particular races have preserved concerning their primitive history, and ancient law."

And since, as exemplifying the "accounts by contemporary observers of civilizations less advanced than their own," he names the account TacituS gives of the Germans, and does not name the accounts modern travelers give of uncivilized races at large, he clearly does not include as evidence the statements made by these.[1] Let me name here two instances of the way in which this limitation leads to the substitution of hypothesis for observation.

Assuming that the patriarchal state is the earliest, Sir Henry Maine says that "the implicit obedience of rude men to their parent is doubtless a primary fact." Now, 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 asserted as a uniform, and therefore as a primary, fact. In a former paragraph it will be seen that obedience does not characterize all types of men. When we read that the Mantra "lives as if there were no other person in the world but himself;" that the Carib "is impatient under the least infringement" of his independence; that the Mapuché "brooks no command;" that the Brazilian Indian begins to display "impatience of all restraint at puberty"—we cannot conclude that filial submission is an original trait. When we find that, by many savages, parents, when they become burdensome in age, are killed or left to starve; that by some, as the Gullinomeros, "old people are treated with contumely, both men and women;" and that by other savages boys are not corrected for fear of destroying their spirit—we cannot suppose that subjection of adult sons to their fathers characterizes all types of men. When from Bancroft we learn that to the Navajos of North America, "born and bred with the idea of perfect personal freedom, all restraint is unendurable," and that among them "every father holds undisputed sway over his children until the age of puberty;" when we learn that, among some Californians, children after puberty "were subject only to the chief;" that among the Lower-Californians, "as soon as children are able to get food for themselves, they are left to their own devices;" and that among the Comanches male children "are even privileged to rebel against their parents, who are not entitled to chastise them but by consent of the tribe "—we are shown that in some races the parental and filial relation early comes to an end. So far from supposing that filial obedience is innate, and the patriarchal type a natural consequence, the evidence points rather to the inference that the two have evolved hand-in-hand under favoring conditions.

Again, referring to the way in which originally common ancestral origin was the only ground for united social action. Sir Henry Maine says:

"Of this we may at least be certain, that all ancient societies regarded themselves as having proceeded from one original stock, and even labored under an incapacity for comprehending any reason except this for their holding together in political union. 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."

Now, if by "ancient societies" are meant those only of which records have come down to us, and if the "history of political ideas" is to include only the ideas of such societies, this may be true; but if we are to take account of societies more archaic than these, and to include under political ideas those of other peoples than Aryans and Semites, it cannot be sustained. Proof has been given that political coöperation and the accompanying structures arise from the conflicts of social groups with one another. We have seen that this evolves chieftainship, which becomes established when the military activity is constant; and we have seen that, having first politically organized simple groups, this process afterward politically organizes compound groups, and again doubly-compound groups. Though it may be facilitated where "the commonwealth is a collection of persons united by a common descent from the progenitor of an original family," yet, in multitudinous cases, it takes place where no connection of this kind exists among the persons. The members of an Australian tribe which, under a temporary chief, join in battle against those of another tribe have not a common descent, but are alien in blood. If it be said that political functions can in this case scarcely be alleged, then take the case of the Creeks of North America, whose men have various totems implying various ancestries, and whose twenty thousand people, living in seventy villages, have nevertheless evolved for themselves a government of considerable complexity. Or, still better, take the Iroquois, who, similar in their formation of tribes out of intermingled clans of different stocks, were wielded by combined action in war into a league of five (afterward six) nations under a permanent republican government. Indeed, this system of kinship puts relations in political antagonism; so that, as we read in Bancroft of the Kutchins, "there can never be intertribal war without ranging fathers and sons against each other." Even apart from the results of mixed clanships, that instability, which we have seen characterized primitive relations of the sexes, negatives the belief that political coöperation everywhere originates from family coöperation. Instance the above-named Creeks, of whom, according to Schoolcraft, "a large portion of the old and middle-aged men, by frequently changing, have had many different wives, and their children, scattered around the country, are unknown to them."

Thus finding reason to suspect that Sir Henry Maine's theory of the family is not applicable to all human societies, let us proceed to consider it more closely:


He implies that, in the earliest stages, there were definite marital relations. That which he calls "the infancy of society "—"the situation in which mankind disclose themselves at the dawn of their history"—is a situation in which "'every one exercises jurisdiction over his wives and his children, and they pay no regard to one another.'" But in foregoing chapters on "The Primitive Relations of the Sexes," on "Promiscuity," and on "Polyandry," numerous facts have been given, showing that definite, coherent marital relations are preceded by indefinite, incoherent ones; and also that, among the marital relations evolving out of these, there are in many places types of family composed not of a man with wife and children, but of a wife with men and children—such family-forms being found not alone in societies of embryonic and of infantine types, but also in considerably advanced societies.

A further assumption is that descent has always and everywhere been in the male line. That it has from the earliest recorded times of those peoples with whom Sir Henry Maine deals, must be admitted; and it may be admitted that male descent occurs also among some rude peoples of other types, as the Kukis of India, the Belooches, the New-Zealanders, the Hottentots. It is by no means the rule, however, among the uncivilized. Mr, McLennan, who has pointed out the incongruity between this assumption and a great mass of evidence, shows that in all parts of the world descent in the female line prevails; and the abundant proofs given by him I might, were it needful, enforce by many others. This system is not limited to groups so little organized that they might be set aside as preinfantine (were that permissible); nor to groups that stand on a level with the patriarchal, or so-called infantine, societies in point of organization; but it occurs in groups, or rather nations, that have evolved complex structures. Ellis says that kinship was through females in the two higher ranks of the Tahitians; and Erskine says the like of the Tongans. It was so, according to Piedrahita, with the ancient Chibchas, who had made no insignificant strides in civilization. Among the Iroquois, again, "titles, as well as property, descended in the female line, and were hereditary in the tribe; the son could never succeed to his father's title of sachem, nor inherit even his tomahawk;" and these Iroquois had advanced far beyond the infantine stage—were governed by a representative assembly of fifty sachems, had a separate military organization, a separate ecclesiastical organization, definite laws, cultivated lands individually possessed, permanent fortified villages. So, too, in Africa, succession to rank and property follows the female line among the coast-negroes, inland-negroes, Congo people, etc., who have distinct industrial systems, four and five gradations in rank, settled agricultures, considerable commerce, towns in streets. How misleading is the limited observation of societies, is shown by Marsden's remark respecting the Sumatrans of the Batta district, that "the succession to the chiefships does not go, in the first instance, to the son of the deceased, but to the nephew by a sister;" and that "the same extraordinary rule, with respect to property in general, prevails also among the Malays of that part of the island:" the rule which he thus characterizes as "extraordinary" being really, among the uncivilized and little civilized, the ordinary rule.

Again, Sir Henry Maine postulates the existence of government from the beginning—patriarchal authority over wife, children, slaves, and all who are included in the primitive social group. But those who have read preceding chapters on "The Regulating System" and "Social Types" will scarcely need reminding that in various parts of the world we find social groups without heads, as the Fuegians, some Australians, most Esquimaux, the Arafuras, the Land Dyaks of the Upper Sarawak River; others with headships that are but occasional, as Tasmanians, some Australians, some Caribs, some Uaupés; and many others with vague and unstable headships, as the Andamanese, Abipones, Snakes, Chippewyans, Chinooks, Chippeways, some Kamtchatdales, Guiana tribes, Mandans, Coroados, New Guinea people, Tannese. Though it is true that in some of these cases the communities are of the lowest, I see no adequate reason for excluding them from our conception of "the infancy of society." And even saying nothing of these, we cannot regard as lower than infantine in their stages those communities which, like the Upper Sarawak Dyaks, the Arafuras, the New Guinea people, carry on their peaceful lives without other government than that of public opinion and custom. Moreover, as has been pointed out, what headship exists in many simple groups is not patriarchal. Such chieftainship as arose among the Tasmanians in time of war was determined by personal fitness. So, too, according to Edwards, with the Caribs, and, according to Swan, with the Creeks. Then, still further showing that political authority does not always begin with patriarchal authority, we have the Iroquois, whose system of kinship negatives the genesis of patriarchs, and who yet have developed a complex republican government; and we have the Pueblos, who, living in well-organized communities under elected governors and councils, show no signs of patriarchal rule in the past.

Another component of the doctrine is that, originally, property is held by the family as a corporate body. According to Sir Henry Maine, "one peculiarity invariably distinguishing the infancy of society" is that "men are regarded and treated not as individuals but always as members of the particular group." The man was not "regarded as himself, as a distinct individual. This individuality was swallowed up in his family." And this alleged primitive submergence of the individual affects even the absolute ruler of the group. "Though the patriarch, for we must not yet call him the paterfamilias, had rights thus extensive, it is impossible to doubt that he lay under an equal amplitude of obligations. If he governed the family it was for its behoof. If he was lord of its possessions, he held them as trustee for his children and kindred . . . the family, in fact, was a corporation; and he was its representative." Here, after expressing the doubt whether there can exist in the primitive mind ideas so abstract as those of trusteeship and representation, I go on to remark that this hypothesis involves a conception difficult to frame. For while the patriarch is said to hold his possessions "in a representative rather than a proprietary character," he is said to have unqualified dominion over children, as over slaves, extending to life and death; which implies that though he possesses the greater right of owning subordinate individuals absolutely, he does not possess the smaller right of owning absolutely the property used by them and himself. I may add that besides being difficult to frame, this conception is not easily reconcilable with Sir Henry Maine's description of the patria potestas of the Romans, which he says is "our type of the primeval paternal authority," and of which he remarks that while, during its decline, the father's power over the son's person became nominal, his "rights over the son's property were always exercised without scruple." And I may also name its seeming incongruity with the fact that political rulers who have absolute powers of life and death over their subjects, are usually also regarded as in theory owners of their property: instance at the present time the kings of Dahomey, Ashantee, Congo, Cayor on the Gold Coast. Passing to the essential question, however, I find myself here at issue not with Sir Henry Maine only, but also with those writers on primitive social states who hold that all ownership is originally tribal, that family ownership comes afterward, and individual ownership last. As already implied, the evidence appears to me to show that from the beginning there has been individual ownership of all such things as could without difficulty be appropriated. True though it is that in early stages rights of property have not acquired definiteness; certain though it may be that among primitive men the moral sanction which property equitably obtained has among ourselves is lacking; obvious as we find it that possession is often established by right of the strongest—the evidence implies that in the rudest communities there is a private holding of useful movables maintained by each man to the best of his ability. A personal monopoly extends itself to such things as can readily be monopolized—a proprietorship not yet made definite by the growth of social regulations. The Tinné, who, "regarding all property, including wives, as belonging to the strongest," show us in a typical way the primitive form of appropriation, also show us that this appropriation is completely personal, since they "burn with the deceased all his effects." Indeed, even apart from evidence, it seems to me an inadmissible supposition that in "the infancy of society" the egoistic savage, utterly without idea of justice or sense of responsibility, consciously held his belongings on behalf of those depending upon him.

One more element, indirectly if not directly involved in the doctrine of Sir Henry Maine, is that "the infancy of society" is characterized by the perpetual tutelage of women. While each male descendant has a capacity "to become himself the head of a new family and the root of a new set of parental powers," "a woman of course has no capacity of the kind, and no title accordingly to the liberation which it confers. There is therefore a peculiar contrivance of archaic jurisprudence for retaining her in the bondage of the family for life." And the implication appears to be that this slavery of women, derived from the patriarchal state, and naturally accompanied by inability to hold property, has been slowly mitigated, and the right of private possession acquired, as the primitive family has decayed. But when we pass from the progenitors of the civilized races to existing uncivilized races, we meet with facts requiring us to qualify this proposition. Though in tribes of primitive men, knowing no law but that of brute force, entire subjection of women is the rule, yet there are exceptions, both in societies lower than the patriarchal in organization, and in higher societies which bear no traces of a past patriarchal state. We learn from Hodgson that among the Kocch, who are mainly governed by "juries of elders," "when a woman dies the family property goes to her daughters." Mason tells us of the Karens, whose chiefs, of little authority, are generally elective and often wanting, that "the father wills his property to his children. . . . Nothing is given to the widow, but she is entitled to the use of the property till her death." Writing of the Khasias, Lieutenant Steel says that "the house belongs to the woman; and in case of the husband dying or being separated from her, it remains her property." Among the Dyaks, whose law of inheritance is not that of primogeniture, and whose chieftainships where they exist are determined by merit, St. John tells us that as the wife does an equal share of work with her husband, "at a divorce she is entitled to half the wealth created by their mutual labors;" and Rajah Brooke writes, concerning certain Land Dyaks, that "the most powerful of the people in the place were two old ladies, who often told me that all the land and inhabitants belonged to them." North America furnishes kindred facts. Of the Aleutian-Islanders, Bancroft, in agreement with Bastian, tells us that "rich women are permitted to indulge in two husbands"—ownership of property by females being implied. Among the Nootkas, in case of divorce, there is "a strict division of property"—the wife taking both what she brought and what she has made; and similarly among the Jpokanes, "all household goods are considered the wife's property," and there is an equitable division of property on dissolution of marriage. Again, of the Iroquois, who, considerably advanced as we have seen, were shown, by their still-surviving system of descent in the female line, never to have passed through the patriarchal stage, we read that the proprietary rights of husband and wife remained distinct; and, further, that in case of separation the children went with the mother. Still more striking is the instance supplied by the peaceable, industrious, freely governed Pueblos, whose women, otherwise occupying good positions, not only inherit property, but, in some cases, make exclusive claims to it. Africa, too, where the condition of women is in most respects low, but where descent in the female line continues, furnishes examples. Shabeeny tells us that in Timbuctoo a son's share of the father's property is double that of a daughter. Describing the customs of the people above the Yellala Falls on the Congo, Tuckey says fowls, eggs, manioc, and fruits, "seem all to belong to the women, the men never disposing of them without first consulting their waves, to whom the beads are given."

Thus there are many things at variance with the theory which sets out by assuming that "the infancy of society" is exhibited in the patriarchal group. As was implied in the chapters on the "Primitive Relations of the Sexes," on "Promiscuity," on "Polyandry," the earliest social groups were without domestic organization as they were without political organization. Instead of patriarchal cluster, at once family and rudimentary state, there was at first an aggregate of males and females without settled arrangements, and having no relations save those established by force and changed when the stronger willed.

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  1. He does, indeed, at page 17 of his "Village Communities," deliberately discredit this evidence—speaking of it as "the slippery testimony concerning savages which is gathered from travelers' tales." I am aware that, in the eyes of most, antiquity gives sacredness to testimony; and that so what were "travelers' tales" when they were written in Roman days have come, in our days, to be regarded as of higher authority than like tales written by recent or living travelers. I see, however, no reason to ascribe to Tacitus a trustworthiness which I do not ascribe to modern explorers, many of them scientifically educated—Barrow, Barth, Galton, Burton, Livingstone, Seeman, Darwin, Wallace, Humboldt, Burckhardt, and others too numerous to set down.