The Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State

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Translation:

This work is in the public domain in the United States because it was published before January 1, 1924.


The author died in 1956, so this work is also in the public domain in countries and areas where the copyright term is the author's life plus 60 years or less. This work may also be in the public domain in countries and areas with longer native copyright terms that apply the rule of the shorter term to foreign works.

 

THE ORIGIN OF THE FAMILY
PRIVATE PROPERTY

AND THE STATE

 

BY

 

FREDERICK ENGELS

 

TRANSLATED BY ERNEST UNTERMANN


 

CHICAGO
CHARLES H. KERR & COMPANY

1909

Copyright, 1902
By Charles H. Kerr & Company

TABLE OF CONTENTS.

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TRANSLATOR'S PREFACE.


"An eternal being created human society as it is today, and submission to 'superiors' and 'authority' is imposed on the 'lower' classes by divine will." This suggestion, coming from pulpit, platform and press, has hypnotized the minds of men and proves to be one of the strongest pillars of exploitation. Scientific investigation has revealed long ago that human society is not cast in a stereotyped mould. As organic life on earth assumes different shapes, the result of a succession of chemical changes, so the group life of human beings develops different social institutions as a result of increasing control over environment, especially of production of food, clothing and shelter. Such is the message which the works of men like Bachofen, Morgan, Marx, Darwin, and others, brought to the human race. But this message never reached the great mass of humanity. In the United States the names of these men are practically unknown. Their books are either out of print, as is the case with the fundamental works of Morgan, or they are not translated into English. Only a few of them are accessible to a few individuals on the dusty shelves of some public libraries. Their message is dangerous to the existing order, and it will not do to give it publicity at a time when further intellectual progress of large bodies of men means the doom of the ruling class. The capitalist system has progressed so far, that all farther progress must bring danger to it and to those who are supreme through it.

But the forces, which have brought about the ent social order, continue their work regardless of the wishes of a few exploiters. A comprehensive work summarizing our present knowledge of the development of social institutions is, therefore, a timely contribution to socialist propaganda. In order to meet the requirements of socialists, such a summary must be written by a socialist. All the scientists who devoted themselves to the study of primeval society belonged to the privileged classes, and even the most radical of them, Lewis Morgan, was prevented by his environment from pointing out the one fact, the recognition of which distinguishes the socialist position from all others—THE EXISTENCE OF A CLASS STRUGGLE.

The strongest allusion to this fact is found in the following passage of "Ancient Society": "Property and office were the foundations upon which aristocracy planted itself. Whether this principle shall live or die has been one of the great problems with which modern society has been engaged.… As a question between equal rights and unequal rights, between equal laws and unequal laws, between the rights of wealth, of rank and of official position, and the power of justice and intelligence, there can be little doubt or the ultimate result" (page 551).

Yet Morgan held that "several thousand years have passed away without the overthrow of the privileged classes, excepting in the United States." But in the days of the trusts, of government by injunction, of sets of 400 with all the arrogance and exclusiveness of European nobility, of aristocratic branches of the Daughters of the Revolution, and other gifts of capitalist development, the modern American workingman will hardly share Morgan's optimistic view that there are no privileged classes in the United States. It must be admitted, however, that to this day Morgan's work is the most fundamental and exhaustive of any written on the subject of ancient social development. Westermark's "History of Human Marriage" treats the question mainly from the standpoint of Ethnology and Natural History. As a scientific treatise it is entirely inadequate, being simply a compilation of data from all parts of the world, arranged without the understanding of gentile organizations or of the materialistic conception of history, and used for wild speculations. Kovalevsky's argument turns on the proposition that the patriarchal household is a typical stage of society, intermediate between the matriarchal and monogamic family.

None of these men could discuss the matter from the proletarian point of view. For in order to do this, it is necessary to descend from the hills of class assumption into the valley of proletarian class-consciousness. This consciousness and the socialist mind are born together. The key to the philosophy of capitalism is the philosophy of socialism. With the rays of this searchlight, Engels exposed the pious "deceivers," property and the state, and their "lofty" ideal, covetousness. And the monogamic family, so far from being a divinely instituted "union of souls," is seen to be the product of a series of material and, in the last analysis, of the most sordid motives. But the ethics of property are worthy of a system of production that, in its final stage, shuts the overwhelming mass of longing humanity out from the happiness of home and family life, from all evolution to a higher individuality, and even drives progress back and forces millions of human beings into irrevocable degeneration.

The desire for a higher life cannot awake in a man, until he is thoroughly convinced that his present life is ugly, low, and capable of improvement by himself. The present little volume is especially adapted to assist the exploited of both sexes in recognizing the actual causes which brought about their present condition. By opening the eyes of the deluded throng and reducing the vaporings of their ignorant or selfish would-be leaders in politics and education to sober reality, it will show the way out of the darkness and mazes of slavish traditions into the light and freedom of a fuller life on earth.

These are the reasons for introducing this little volume to English speaking readers. Without any further apology, we leave them to its perusal and to their own conclusions.

ERNEST UNTERMANN.

Chicago, August, 1902.

AUTHOR'S PREFACE TO THE FIRST EDITION, 1884.

The following chapters are, in a certain sense, executing a bequest. It was no less a man than Karl Marx who had reserved to himself the privilege of displaying the results of Morgan's investigations in connection with his own materialistic conception of history—which I might call ours within certain limits. He wished thus to elucidate the full meaning of this conception. For in America, Morgan had, in a manner, discovered anew the materialistic conception of history, originated by Marx forty years ago. In comparing barbarism and civilization, he had arrived, in the main, at the same results as Marx. And just as "Capital" was zealously plagiarized and persistently passed over in silence by the professional economists in Germany, so Morgan's "Ancient Society"[1] was treated by the spokesmen of "prehistoric" science in England.

My work can offer only a meager substitute for that which my departed friend was not destined to accomplish. But in his copious extracts from Morgan, I have critical notes which I herewith reproduce as fully as feasible.

According to the materialistic conception, the decisive element of history is pre-eminently the production and reproduction of life and its material requirements. This implies, on the one hand, the production of the means of existence (food, clothing, shelter and the necessary tools); on the other hand, the generation of children, the propagation of the species. The social institutions, under which the people of a certain historical period and of a certain country are living, are dependent on these two forms of production; partly on the development of labor, partly on that of the family. The less labor is developed, and the less abundant the quantity of its production and, therefore, the wealth of society, the more society is seen to be under the domination of sexual ties. However, under this formation based on sexual ties, the productivity of labor is developed more and more. At the same time, private property and exchange, distinctions of wealth, exploitation of the labor power of others and, by this agency, the foundation of class antagonism, are formed. These new elements of society strive in the course of time to adapt the old state of society to the new conditions, until the impossibility of harmonizing these two at last leads to a complete revolution. The old form of society founded on sexual relations is abolished in the clash with the recently developed social classes. A new society steps into being, crystallized into the state. The units of the latter are no longer sexual, but local groups; a society in which family relations are entirely subordinated to property relations, thereby freely developing those class antagonisms and class struggles that make up the contents of all written history up to the present time.

Morgan deserves great credit for rediscovering and re-establishing in its main outlines this foundation of our written history, and of finding in the sexual organizations of the North American Indians the key that opens all the unfathomable riddles of most ancient Greek, Roman and German history. His book is not the work of a short day. For more than forty years he grappled with the subject, until he mastered it fully. Therefore his work is one of the few epochal publications of our time.

In the following demonstrations, the reader will, on the whole, easily distinguish what originated with Morgan and what was added by myself. In the historical sections on Greece and Rome, I have not limited myself to Morgan's material, but have added as much as I could supply. The sections on Celts and Germans essentially belong to me. Morgan had only sources of minor quality at his disposal, and for German conditions—aside from Tacitus—only the worthless, unbridled falsifications of Freeman. The economic deductions, sufficient for Morgan's purpose, but wholly inadequate for mine, were treated anew by myself. And lastly I am, of course, responsible for all final conclusions, unless Morgan is expressly quoted.

Frederick Engels.

AUTHOR'S PREFACE TO THE FOURTH EDITION, 1891.

The first large editions of this work have been out of print for nearly six months, and the publisher has for some time requested of me the arrangement of a new edition. Urgent duties have hitherto prevented me. Seven years have passed, since the first edition made its appearance; during this time, the study of primeval forms of the family has made considerable progress. Hence it became necessary to apply diligently the improving and supplementing hand, more especially, as the proposed stereotyping of the present text will make further changes impossible for some time.

Consequently, I have subjected the whole text to a thorough revision and made a number of additions which, I hope, will give due recognition to the present stage of scientific progress. Furthermore, I give in the course of this preface a short synopsis of the history of the family as treated by various writers from Bachofen to Morgan. I am doing this mainly because the English prehistoric school, tinged with chauvinism, is continually doing its utmost to kill by its silence the revolution in primeval conceptions effected by Morgan's discoveries. At the same time this school is not at all backward in appropriating to its own use the results of Morgan's study. In certain other circles also this English example is unhappily followed rather extensively.

My work has been translated into different languages. First into Italian; L'origine della famiglia, della proprietá privata e dello stato, versione riveduta dall' autore, di Pasquale Martignetti; Benevento, 1885. Then into Roumanian: Origina familei, proprietatei private si a statului, traducere de Ivan Nadejde, in the Jassy periodical "Contemporanul," September, 1885, to May, 1886. Furthermore into Danish: Familjens, Privatejendommens og Statens Oprindelse, Dansk, af Forfatteren gennemgaaet Udgave, besörget af Gerson Trier, Kjoebenhavn, 1888. A French translation by Henri Ravé, founded on the present German edition, is under the press.

Up to the beginning of the sixties, a history of the family cannot be spoken of. This branch of historical science was then entirely under the influence of the decalogue. The patriarchal form of the family, described more exhaustively by Moses than by anybody else, was not only, without further comment, considered as the most ancient, but also as identical with the family of our times. No historical development of the family was even recognized. At best it was admitted that a period of sexual license might have existed in primeval times.

To be sure, aside from monogamy, oriental polygamy and Indo-Tibethan polyandry were known; but these three forms could not be arranged in any historical order and stood side by side without any connection. That some nations of ancient history and some savage tribes of the present day did not trace their descent to the father, but to the mother, hence considered the female lineage as alone valid; that many nations of our time prohibit intermarrying inside of certain large groups, the extent of which was not yet ascertained and that this custom is found in all parts of the globe—these facts were known, indeed, and more examples were continually collected. But nobody knew how to make use of them. Even in E. B. Taylor's "Researches into the Early History of Mankind," etc. (1865), they are only mentioned as "queer customs" together with the usage of some savage tribes to prohibit the touching of burning wood with iron, tools, and similar religious absurdities.

This history of the family dates from 1861, the year of the publication of Bachofen's "Mutterrecht" (maternal law). Here the author makes the following propositions:

1. That in the beginning people lived in unrestricted sexual intercourse, which he dubs, not very felicitously, hetaerism.

2. That such an intercourse excludes any absolutely certain means of determining parentage; that consequently descent could only be traced by the female line in compliance with maternal law—and that this was universally practiced by all the nations of antiquity.

3. That consequently women as mothers, being the only well known parents of younger generations, received a high tribute of respect and deference, amounting to a complete women's rule (gynaicocracy), according to Bachofen's idea.

4. That the transition to monogamy, reserving a certain woman exclusively to one man, implied the violation of a primeval religious law (i.e., practically a violation of the customary right of all other men to the same woman), which violation had to be atoned for or its permission purchased by the surrender of the women to the public for a limited time.

Bachofen finds the proofs of these propositions in numerous quotations from ancient classics, collected with unusual diligence. The transition from "hetaerism" to monogamy and from maternal to paternal law is accomplished according to him—especially by the Greeks—through the evolution of religious ideas. New gods, the representatives of the new ideas, are added to the traditional group of gods, the representatives of old ideas; the latter are forced to the background more and more by the former. According to Bachofen, therefore, it is not the development of the actual conditions of life that has effected the historical changes in the relative social positions of man and wife, but the religious reflection of these conditions in the minds of men. Hence Bachofen represents the Oresteia of Aeschylos as the dramatic description of the fight between the vanishing maternal and the paternal law, rising and victorious during the time of the heroes.

Klytaemnestra has killed her husband Agamemnon on his return from the Trojan war for the sake of her lover Aegisthos; but Orestes, her son by Agamemnon, avenges the death of his father by killing his mother. Therefore he is persecuted by the Erinyes, the demonic protectors of maternal law, according to which the murder of a mother is the most horrible, inexpiable crime. But Apollo, who has instigated Orestes to this act by his oracle, and Athene, who is invoked as arbitrator—the two deities representing the new paternal order of things—protect him. Athene gives a hearing to both parties. The whole question is summarized in the ensuing debate between Orestes and the Erinyes. Orestes claims that Klytemnaestra has committed a twofold crime: by killing her husband she has killed his father. Why do the Erinyes persecute him and not her who is far more guilty?

The reply is striking:

"She was not related, by blood to the man whom she slew."

The murder of a man not consanguineous, even though he be the husband of the murderess, is expiable, does not concern the Erinyes; it is only their duty to prosecute the murder of consanguineous relatives. According to maternal law, therefore, the murder of a mother is the most heinous and inexpiable crime. Now Apollo speaks in defense of Orestes. Athene then calls on the areopagites—the Jurors of Athens—to vote; the votes are even for acquittal and for condemnation. Thereupon Athene as president of the jury casts her vote in favor of Orestes and acquits him. Paternal law has gained a victory over maternal law, the deities of the "younger generation," as the Erinyes call them, vanquish the latter. These are finally persuaded to accept a new office under the new order of things.

This new, but decidedly accurate interpretation of the Oresteia is one of the most beautiful and best passages in the whole book, but it proves at the same time that Bachofen himself believes as much in the Erinyes, in Apollo and in Athene, as Aeschylos did in his day. He really believes, that they performed the miracle of securing the downfall of maternal law through paternal law during the time of the Greek heroes. That a similar conception, representing religion as the main lever of the world's history, must finally lead to sheer mysticism, is evident.

Therefore it is a troublesome and not always profitable task to work your way through the big volume of Bachofen. Still, all this does not curtail the value of his fundamental work. He was the first to replace the assumption of an unknown primeval condition of licentious sexual intercourse by the demonstration that ancient classical literature points out a multitude of traces proving the actual existence among Greek and Asiatics of other sexual relations before monogamy. These relations not only permitted a man to have intercourse with several women, but also left a woman free to have sexual intercourse with several men without violating good morals. This custom did not disappear without leaving as a survival the form of a general surrender for a limited time by which women had to purchase the right of monogamy. Hence descent could originally only be traced by the female line, from mother to mother. The sole legality of the female line was preserved far into the time of monogamy with assured, or at least acknowledged, paternity. Consequently, the original position of the mothers as the sole absolutely certain parents of their children secured for them and for all other women a higher social level than they have ever enjoyed since. Although Bachofen, biased by his mystic conceptions, did not formulate these propositions so clearly, still he proved their correctness. This was equivalent to a complete revolution in 1861.

Bachofen's big volume was written in German, i.e., in the language of a nation that cared less than any other of its time for the history of the present family. Therefore he remained unknown. The man next succeeding him in the same field made his appearance in 1865 without having ever heard of Bachofen.

This successor was J. F. McLennan, the direct opposite of his predecessor. Instead of the talented mystic, we have here the dry jurist; in place of the rank growth of poetical imagination, we find the plausible combinations of the pleading lawyer. McLennan finds among many savage, barbarian and even civilized people of ancient and modern times a type of marriage forcing the bride-groom, alone or in co-operation with his friends, to go through the form of a mock forcible abduction of the bride. This must needs be a survival of an earlier custom when men of one tribe actually secured their wives by forcible abduction from another tribe. How did this "robber marriage" originate? As long as the men could find women enough in their own tribe, there was no occasion for robbing. It so happens that we frequently find certain groups among undeveloped nations (which in 1865 were often considered identical with the tribes themselves), inside of which intermarrying was prohibited. In consequence the men (or women) of a certain group were forced to choose their wives (or husbands) outside of their group. Other tribes again observe the custom of forcing their men to choose their women inside of their own group only. McLennan calls the first exogamous, the second endogamous, and construes forthwith a rigid contrast between exogamous and endogamous "tribes." And though his own investigation of exogamy makes it painfully obvious that this contrast in many, if not in most or even in all cases, exists in his own imagination only, he nevertheless makes it the basis of his entire theory. According to the latter, exogamous tribes can choose their women only from other tribes. And as in conformity with their savage state a condition of continual warfare existed among such tribes, women could only be secured by abduction.

McLennan further asks: Whence this custom of exogamy? The idea of consanguinity and rape could not have anything to do with it, since these conceptions were developed much later. But it was a widely spread custom among savages to kill female children immediately after their birth. This produced a surplus of males in such a tribe which naturally resulted in the condition where several men had one woman—polyandry. The next consequence was that the mother of a child could be ascertained, but not its father; hence: descent only traced by the female line and exclusion of male lineage—maternal law. And a second consequence of the scarcity of women in a certain tribe—a scarcity that was somwhat mitigated, but not relieved by polyandry—was precisely the forcible abduction of women from other tribes. "As exogamy and polyandry are referable to one and the same cause—a want of balance between the sexes—we are forced to regard all the exogamous races as having originally been polyandrous…. Therefore we must hold it to be beyond dispute that among exogamous races the first system of kinship was that which recognized blood-ties through mothers only."[2]

It is the merit of McLennan to have pointed out the general extent and the great importance of what he calls exogamy. However, he has by no means discovered the fact of exogamous groups; neither did he understand their presence. Aside from earlier scattered notes of many observers—from which McLennan quoted—Latham had accurately and correctly described this institution among the Indian Magars[3] and stated that it was widespread and practiced in all parts of the globe. McLennan himself quotes this passage. As early as 1847, our friend Morgan had also pointed out and correctly described the same custom in his letters on the Iroquois (in the American Review) and in 1851 in "The League of the Iroquois." We shall see, how the lawyer's instinct of McLennan has introduced more disorder into this subject than the mystic imagination of Bachofen did into the field of maternal law.

It must be said to McLennan's credit that he recognized the custom of tracing decent by maternal law as primeval, although Bachofen has anticipated him in this respect. McLennan has admitted this later on. But here again he is not clear on the subject. He always speaks of "kinship through females only" and uses this expression, correctly applicable to former stages, in connection with later stages of development, when descent and heredity were still exclusively traced along female lines, but at the same time kinship on the male side began to be recognized and expressed. It is the narrow-mindedness of the jurist, establishing a fixed legal expression and employing it incessantly to denote conditions to which it should no longer be applied.

In spite of its plausibility, McLennan's theory did not seem too well founded even in the eyes of its author. At least he finds it remarkable himself "that the form of capture is now most distinctly marked and impressive just among those races which have male kinship."[4]

And again: "It is a curious fact that nowhere now, that we are aware of, is infanticide a system where exogamy and the earliest form of kinship co-exists."[5]

Both these facts directly disprove his method of explanation, and he can only meet them with new and still more complicated hypotheses.

In spite of this, his theory found great approval and favor in England. Here McLennan was generally considered as the founder of the history of the family and as the first authority on this subject. His contrast of exogamous and endogamous "tribes" remained the recognized foundation of the customary views, however much single exceptions and modifications were admitted. This antithesis became the eye-flap that rendered impossible any free view of the field under investigation and, therefore, any decided progress. It is our duty to confront this overrating of McLennan, practised in England and copied elsewhere, with the fact that he has done more harm with his ill-conceived contrast of exogamous and endogamous tribes than he has done good by his investigations.

Moreover, in the course of time more and more facts became known that did not fit into his neat frame. McLennan knew only three forms of marriage: polygamy, polyandry and monogamy. But once attention had been directed to this point, then more and more proofs were found that among undeveloped nations there were connubial forms in which a group of men possessed a group of women. Lubbock in his "Origin of Civilization" (1870) recognized this "communal marriage" as a historical fact.

Immediately after him, in 1871, Morgan appeared with fresh and, in many respects, conclusive material. He had convinced himself that the peculiar system of kinship in vogue among the Iroquois was common to all the aborigines of the United States, and practised all over the continent, although it was in direct contradiction with all the degrees of relation arising from the connubial system in practice there. He prevailed on the federal government to collect information on the systems of kinship of other nations by the help of question blanks and tables drawn up by himself. The answers brought the following results:

1. The kinship system of the American Indians is also in vogue in Asia, and in a somewhat modified form among numerous tribes of Africa and Australia.

2. This system finds a complete explanation in a certain form of communal marriage now in process of decline in Hawaii and some Australian islands.

3. By the side of this marital form, there is in practice on the same islands a system of kinship only explicable by a still more primeval and now extinct form of communal marriage.

The collected data and the conclusions of Morgan were published in his "Systems of Consanguinity and Affinity," 1871, and discussion transferred to a far more extensive field. Taking his departure from the system of affinity he reconstructed the corresponding forms of the family, thereby opening a new road to scientific investigation and extending the retrospective view into prehistoric periods of human life. Once this view gained tion, then the frail structure of McLennan would vanish into thin air.

McLennan defended his theory in the new edition of "Primitive Marriage" (Studies in Ancient History, 1875). While he himself most artificially combines into a history of the family a number of hypotheses, he not only demands proofs from Lubbock and Morgan for every one of their propositions, but insists on proofs of such indisputable validity as is solely recognized in a Scotch court. And this is done by the same man who unhesitatingly concludes that the following people practiced polyandry: The Germans, on account of the intimate relation between uncle and nephew (mother's brother and sister's son); the Britons, because Cesar reports that the Britons have ten to twelve women in common; barbarians, because all other reports of the old writers on community of women are misinterpreted by him! One is reminded of a prosecuting attorney who takes all possible liberty in making up his case, but who demands the most formal and legally valid proof for every word of the lawyer for the defense.

He asserts that communal marriage is purely the outgrowth of imagination, and in so doing falls far behind Bachofen. He represents Morgan's systems of affinity as mere codes of conventional politeness, proven by the fact that Indians address also strangers, white people, as brother or father. This is like asserting that the terms father, mother, brother, sister are simply meaningless forms of address, because Catholic priests and abbesses are also addressed as father and mother, and monks and nuns, or even free-masons and members of English professional clubs in solemn session, as brother and sister. In short, McLennan's defense was extremely weak.

One point still remained that had not been attacked. The contrast of exogamous and endogamous tribes, on which his whole system was founded, was not only left unchallenged, but was even generally regarded as the pivotal point of the entire history of the family. It was admitted that McLennan's attempt to explain this contrast was insufficient and in contradiction with the facts enumerated by himself. But the contrast itself, the existence of two diametrically opposed forms of independent and absolute groups, one of them marrying the women of its own group, the other strictly forbidding this habit, was considered irrefutable gospel. Compare e.g. Giraud-Teulon's "Origines de la famille" (1874) and even Lubbock's "Origin of Civilization" (4th edition, 1882).

At this point Morgan's main work, "Ancient Society" (1877), inserts its lever. It is this work on which the present volume is based. Here we find clearly demonstrated what was only dimly perceived by Morgan in 1871. There is no antithesis between endogamy and exogamy; no exogamous "tribes" have been found up to the present time. But at the time when communal marriage still existed—and in all probability it once existed everywhere—a tribe was subdivided into a number of groups—"gentes"—consanguineous on the mother's side, within which intermarrying was strictly forbidden. The men of a certain "gens," therefore, could choose their wives within the tribe, and did so as a rule, but had to choose them outside of the "gens." And while thus the "gens" was strictly exogamous, the tribe comprising an aggregate of "gentes" was equally endogamous. This fact gave the final blow to McLennan's artificial structure.

But Morgan did not rest here. The "gens" of the American Indians furthermore assisted him in gaining another important step in the field under investigation. He found that this "gens," organized in conformity with maternal law, was the original form out of which later on the "gens" by paternal law developed, such as we find it among the civilized nations of antiquity. The Greek and Roman "gens," an unsolved riddle to all historians up to our time, found its explanation in the Indian "gens." A new foundation was discovered for the entire primeval history.

The repeated discovery that the original maternal "gens" was a preliminary stage of the paternal "gens" of civilized nations has the same signification for primeval history that Darwin's theory of evolution had for biology and Marx's theory of surplus value for political economy. Morgan was thereby enabled to sketch the outline of a history of the family, showing in bold strokes at least the classic stages of development, so far as the available material will at present permit such a thing. It is clearly obvious that this marks a new epoch in the treatment of primeval history. The maternal "gens" has become the pivot on which this whole science revolves. Since its discovery we know in what direction to continue our researches, what to investigate and how to arrange the results of our studies. In consequence, progress in this field is now much more rapid than before the publication of Morgan's book.

The discoveries of Morgan are now universally recognized, or rather appropriated, even by the archaeologists of England. But hardly one of them openly admits that we owe this revolution of thought to Morgan. His book is ignored in England as much as possible, and he himself is dismissed with condescending praise for the excellence of his former works. The details of his discussion are diligently criticised, but his really great discoveries are covered up obstinately. The original edition of "Ancient Society" is out of print; there is no paying market for a work of this kind in America; in England, it appears, the book was systematically suppressed, and the only edition of this epochal work still circulating in the market is—the German translation.

Whence this reserve? We can hardly refrain from calling it a conspiracy to kill by silence, especially in view of the numerous meaningless and polite quotations and of other manifestations of fellowship in which the writings of our recognized archaeologists abound. Is it because Morgan is an American, and because it is rather hard on the English archaeologists to be dependent on two talented foreigners like Bachofen and Morgan for the outlines determining the arrangement and grouping of their material, in spite of all praiseworthy diligence in accumulating material. They could have borne with the German, but an American? In face of an American, every Englishman becomes patriotic. I have seen amusing illustrations of this fact in the United States. Moreover, it must be remembered that McLennan was, so to say, the official founder and leader of the English prehistoric school. It was almost a requirement of good prehistoric manners to refer in terms of highest admiration to his artificial construction of history leading from infanticide through polyandry and abduction to maternal law. The least doubt in the strictly independent existence of exogamous and endogamous tribes was considered a frivolous sacrilege. According to this view, Morgan, in reducing all these sacred dogmas to thin air, committed an act of wanton destruction. And worse still, his mere manner of reducing them sufficed to show their instability, so that the admirers of McLennan, who hitherto had been stumbling about helplessly between exogamy and endogamy, were almost forced to slap their foreheads and exclaim: "How silly of us, not to have found that out long ago!" Just as if Morgan had not committed crimes enough against the official archaeologists to justify them in discarding all fair methods and assuming an attitude of cool neglect, he persisted in filling their cup to overflowing. Not only does he criticise civilization, the society of production for profit, the fundamental form of human society, in a manner savoring of Fourier, but he also speaks of a future reorganization of society in language that Karl Marx might have used. Consequently, he receives his just deserts, when McLennan indignantly charges him with a profound antipathy against historical methods, and when Professor Giraud-Teulon of Geneva endorses the same view in 1884. For was not the same Professor Giraud-Teulon still wandering about aimlessly in the maze of McLennan's exogamy in 1874 (Origines de la famille)? And was it not Morgan who finally had to set him free?

It is not necessary to dwell in this preface on the other forms of progress which primeval history owes to Morgan. Reference to them will be found in the course of my work. During the fourteen years that have elapsed since the publication of his main work, the material contributing to the history of primeval society has been considerably enriched. Anthropologists, travelers and professional historians were joined by comparative jurists who added new matter and opened up new points of view. Here and there, some special hypothesis of Morgan has been shaken or even become obsolete. But in no instance has the new material led to a weakening of his leading propositions. The order he established in primeval history still holds good in its main outlines to this day. We may even say that this order receives recognition in the exact degree, in which the authorship of this great progress is concealed.

London, June 16th, 1891.

Frederick Engels.

  1. Ancient Society or Researches in the Lines of Human Progress from Savagery, through Barbarism, to Civilization. By Lewis H. Morgan. Henry Holt & Co. 1877. The book, printed in America, was singularly difficult to obtain in London. The author died a few years ago.
  2. McLennan, Studies in Ancient History, 1886. Primitive Marriage, p. 124.
  3. Latham, Descriptive Ethnology, 1859.
  4. McLennan, Studies In Ancient History, 1886. Primitive Marriage, p. 140.
  5. Ibidem, p. 146.