Page:The early history of the property of married women.djvu/9

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such a treatise; and it thus became possible to reconstruct, from the book of Gaius, the whole past history of Roman law with some completeness. Certainly, without Niebuhr's discovery the subject of this lecture could never have been understood, or its original outline restored.

Hindoo law, which I have placed by the side of Roman law, calls assuredly for no eulogy. It is full of monstrous iniquities, and has been perverted in all directions by priestly influence. But then a great deal of it is undoubtedly of prodigious antiquity, and, what is more important, we can see this ancient law in operation before our eyes. British legislation has corrected some of its excesses, but its principles are untouched, and are still left to produce some of their results. French law, as I said, is Roman law a little altered, but then it is the Roman law in its matured, developed, and refined condition, and the ancient institutions of the Romans are only seen through it dimly. But some of the institutions which the Romans and Hindoos once had in common may be seen actually flourishing in India, under the protection of English Courts of Justice.

The two societies, Roman and Hindoo, which I take up for examination, with the view of determining some of their earliest ideas concerning the property of women, are seen to be formed at what, for practical purposes, is the earliest stage of their history, by the multiplication of a particular unit or group, the Patriarchal Family. There has been much speculation of late among writers belonging to the school of so-called pre-historic inquiry as to the place in the history of human society to which this peculiar group, the Patriarchal Family, is entitled. Whether, however, it has existed universally from all time—whether it has existed from all time only in certain races—or whether in the races among whose institutions it appears, it has been formed by slow and gradual development—it has, everywhere, where we find it, the same character and composition. The group consist of animate and inanimate property, of wife, children, slaves, land, and goods, all held together by subjection to the despotic authority of the eldest male of the eldest ascending line, the father, grandfather, or even, more remote ancestor. The force which binds the group is Power, and any other source of union, such as blood relationship, is altogether secondary. A child adopted into the Patriarchal family belongs to it as perfectly as the child naturally born into