Page:The early history of the property of married women.djvu/11

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absolutely to the husband, and became fused with the domain of the new family; and at this point begins, in any reasonable sense of the words, the early history of the property of married women.

The first sign of change is furnished by the employment of a peculiar term to indicate the relation of husband to wife, as different from the relation of father to child, or master to slave. The term, a famous one in legal history, is manus, the Latin word for "hand," and the wife was said convenire in manum, to come under the hand of her husband. I have elsewhere expressed a conjectural opinion that this word, manus or hand, was at first the sole general term for patriarchal power among the Romans, and that it became confined to one form of that power by a process of specialisation easily observable in the history of language. The allotment of particular names to special ideas which gradually disengage themselves from a general idea is apparently determined by accident. We cannot give a reason, other than mere chance, why power over a wife should have retained the name of manus, why power over a child should have obtained another name, potestas, why power over slaves and inanimate property should in later times be called dominium. But, although the transformation of meanings be capricious, the process of specialisation is a permanent phenomenon, in the highest degree important and worthy of observation. When once this specialisation has in any case been effected, I venture to say that there can be no accurate historical vision for him who will not, in mental contemplation, re-combine the separated elements. Taking the conceptions which have their root in the family relation—what we call property, what we call marital right, what we call parental authority, were all originally blended in the general conception of patriarchal power. If, leaving the Family, we pass on to the group which stands next above it in the primitive organisation of society—that combination of families, in a larger aggregate, for which at present I have no better name than Village Community—we find it impossible to understand the extant examples of it, unless we recognise that, in the infancy of ideas, legislative, judicial, executive, and administrative power are not distinguished, but considered as one and the same. There is no distinction drawn in the mind between passing a law, affirming a rule, trying an offender, carrying out the sentence, or prescribing a set of directions to a communal functionary. All these are regarded as exercises of an identical power