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Descent of Man [ 1871]

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Author Topic: Descent of Man [ 1871]  (Read 2925 times)
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« Reply #195 on: February 10, 2009, 01:28:10 pm »

 * Sir J. Lubbock, The Origin of Civilisation, 1870, chap. iii.,
especially pp. 60-67. Mr. M'Lennan, in his extremely valuable work
on Primitive Marriage, 1865, p. 163, speaks of the union of the
sexes "in the earliest times as loose, transitory, and in some
degree promiscuous." Mr. M'Lennan and Sir J. Lubbock have collected
much evidence on the extreme licentiousness of savages at the
present time. Mr. L. H. Morgan, in his interesting memoir of the
classificatory system of relationship. (Proceedings of the American
Academy of Sciences, vol. vii., Feb., 1868, p. 475), concludes that
polygamy and all forms of marriage during primeval times were
essentially unknown. It appears also, from Sir. J. Lubbock's work,
that Bachofen likewise believes that communal intercourse.
originally prevailed.

  The indirect evidence in favour of the belief of the former
prevalence of communal marriages is strong, and rests chiefly on the
terms of relationship which are employed between the members of the
same tribe, implying a connection with the tribe, and not with
either parent. But the subject is too large and complex for even an
abstract to be here given, and I will confine myself to a few remarks.
It is evident in the case of such marriages, or where the marriage tie
is very loose, that the relationship of the child to its father cannot
be known. But it seems almost incredible that the relationship of
the child to its mother should ever be completely ignored,
especially as the women in most savage tribes nurse their infants
for a long time. Accordingly, in many cases the lines of descent are
traced through the mother alone, to the exclusion of the father. But
in other cases the terms employed express a connection with the
tribe alone, to the exclusion even of the mother. It seems possible
that the connection between the related members of the same
barbarous tribe, exposed to all sorts of danger, might be so much more
important, owing to the need of mutual protection and aid, than that
between the mother and her child, as to lead to the sole use of
terms expressive of the former relationships; but Mr. Morgan is
convinced that this view is by no means sufficient.
  The terms of relationship used in different parts of the world may
be divided, according to the author just quoted, into two great
classes, the classificatory and descriptive, the latter being employed
by us. It is the classificatory system which so strongly leads to
the belief that communal and other extremely loose forms of marriage
were originally universal But as far as I can see, there is no
necessity on this ground for believing in absolutely promiscuous
intercourse; and I am glad to find that this is Sir J. Lubbock's view.
Men and women, like many of the lower animals, might formerly have
entered into strict though temporary unions for each birth, and in
this case nearly as much confusion would have arisen in the terms of
relationship as in the case of promiscuous intercourse. As far as
sexual selection is concerned, all that is required is that choice
should be exerted before the parents unite, and it signifies little
whether the unions last for life or only for a season.
  Besides the evidence derived from the terms of relationship, other
lines of reasoning indicate the former wide prevalence of communal
marriage. Sir J. Lubbock accounts for the strange and
widely-extended habit of exogamy- that is, the men of one tribe taking
wives from a distinct tribe,- by communism having been the original
form of intercourse; so that a man never obtained a wife for himself
unless he captured her from a neighbouring and hostile tribe, and then
she would naturally have become his sole and valuable property. Thus
the practice of capturing wives might have arisen; and from the honour
so gained it might ultimately have become the universal habit.
According to Sir J. Lubbock,* we can also thus understand "the
necessity of expiation for marriage as an infringement of tribal
rites, since according to old ideas, a man had no right to appropriate
to himself that which belonged to the whole tribe." Sir J. Lubbock
further gives a curious list of facts shewing that in old times high
honour was bestowed on women who were utterly licentious; and this, as
he explains, is intelligible, if we admit that promiscuous intercourse
was the aboriginal, and therefore long revered custom of the

  * Address to British Association On the Social and Religious
Condition of the Lower Races of Man, 1870, p. 20.
  *(2) Origin of Civilisation, 1870, p. 86. In the several works above
quoted, there will be found copious evidence on relationship through
the females alone, or with the tribe alone.

  Although the manner of development of the marriage tie is an obscure
subject, as we may infer from the divergent opinions on several points
between the three authors who have studied it most closely, namely,
Mr. Morgan, Mr. M'Lennan, and Sir J. Lubbock, yet from the foregoing
and several other lines of evidence it seems probable* that the
habit of marriage, in any strict sense of the word, has been gradually
developed; and that almost promiscuous or very loose intercourse was
once extremely common throughout the world. Nevertheless, from the
strength of the feeling of jealousy all through the animal kingdom, as
well as from the analogy of the lower animals, more particularly of
those which come nearest to man, I cannot believe that absolutely
promiscuous intercourse prevailed in times past, shortly before man
attained to his present rank in the zoological scale. Man, as I have
attempted to shew, is certainly descended from some ape-like creature.
With the existing Quadrumana, as far as their habits are known, the
males of some species are monogamous, but live during only a part of
the year with the females: of this the orang seems to afford an
instance. Several kinds, for example some of the Indian and American
monkeys, are strictly monogamous, and associate all the year round
with their wives. Others are polygamous, for example the gorilla and
several American species, and each family lives separate. Even when
this occurs, the families inhabiting the same district are probably
somewhat social; the chimpanzee, for instance, is occasionally met
with in large bands. Again, other species are polygamous, but
several males, each with his own females, live associated in a body,
as with several species of baboons.*(2) We may indeed conclude from
what we know of the jealousy of all male quadrupeds, armed, as many of
them are, with special weapons for battling with their rivals, that
promiscuous intercourse in a state of nature is extremely
improbable. The pairing may not last for life, but only for each
birth; yet if the males which are the strongest and best able to
defend or otherwise assist their females and young, were to select the
more attractive females, this would suffice for sexual selection.

  * Mr. C. Staniland Wake argues strongly (Anthropologia, March, 1874,
p. 197) against the views held by these three writers on the former
prevalence of almost promiscuous intercourse; and he thinks that the
classificatory system of relationship can be otherwise explained.
  *(2) Brehm (Illustriertes Thierleben, B. i., p. 77) says
Cynocephalus hamadryas lives in great troops containing twice as
many adult females as adult males. See Rengger on American
polygamous species, and Owen (Anatomy of Vertebrates, vol. iii., p.
746) on American monogamous species. Other references might be added.

  Therefore, looking far enough back in the stream of time, and
judging from the social habits of man as he now exists, the most
probable view is that he aboriginally lived in small communities, each
with a single wife, or if powerful with several, whom he jealously
guarded against all other men. Or he may not have been a social
animal, and yet have lived with several wives, like the gorilla; for
all the natives "agree that but one adult male is seen in a band; when
the young male grows up, a contest takes place for mastery, and the
strongest, by killing and driving out the others, establishes
himself as the head of the community."* The younger males, being
thus expelled and wandering about, would, when at last successful in
finding a partner, prevent too close interbreeding within the limits
of the same family.

  * Dr. Savage, in Boston Journal of Natural History, vol. v.,
1845-47, p. 423.
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