Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 10.djvu/297

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been validated.

were regarded as more honorably married than the rest, there would result an ambition, if not to capture a wife, still to seem to capture a wife. In every society the inferior ape the superior; and customs thus spread among classes, the ancestors of which did not observe them. The antique-looking portraits that decorate many a modern, large house, by no means demonstrate the distinguished ancestry of the owner; but may merely simulate a distinguished ancestry. The coat of arms a wealthy man bears does not necessarily imply descent from men who once had their shields and flags covered by such marks of identity. The plumes borne on a hearse do not prove that the dead occupant had forefathers who wore knightly decorations. And, similarly, it does not follow that all the members of tribes who go through the form of capturing their wives at marriage are descendants of men who in earlier days actually captured their wives. Mr. McLennan himself points out that, among sundry ancient peoples, captured wives were permitted to the military class, though not to other classes. If we suppose a society formed of a dominant military class, originally the conquerors, who practised wife-capture, and a subject class who could not practise it—and if we ask what would happen when such a society fell into more peaceful relations with adjacent like societies, and obtained wives from them no longer by force, but by purchase or other friendly arrangement—we may see that, in the first place, the form of capture would replace the actuality of capture in the marriages of this dominant class; for, as Mr. McLennan contends, conformity to ancestral usage would necessitate the simulation of capture after actual capture has ceased. And when, in the dominant class, wife-capture had thus passed into a form, it would be imitated by the subject class as being the most honorable form. Such among the inferior as had risen to superior social positions would first adopt it; and they would gradually be followed by those below them. So that, even were there none of the other probable origins named above, a surviving form of capture in any society would not necessarily show that society to have been exogamous, but would merely show that wife-capture was in early times practised by its leading men.


And now, pursuing the argument, let us see whether exogamy and endogamy are not simultaneously accounted for as correlative results of the same differentiating process. Setting out with a state in which the relations of the sexes were indefinite, variable, and determined by the passions and circumstances of the occasion, we have to explain how exogamy and endogamy became established, the one here, the other there, as consequences of surrounding conditions. The efficient conditions were the relations to other tribes, now peaceful but mostly hostile, some of them strong, and some of them weak.

Necessarily, a primitive group not commonly at war with neighboring groups must be endogamous; for the taking of women from