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rendering women scarce, led at once to polyandry within the tribe, and to the capturing of women from without.”*
“If it can be shown, firstly, that exogamous tribes exist or have existed, and, secondly, that in rude times the relations of separate tribes are uniformly or almost uniformly hostile, we have found a set of circumstances in which men could get wives only by capturing them—a social condition in which capture would be the necessary preliminary to marriage.” |
Further on he remarks, “We now confidently submit that the conditions required for this inference have been amply established. ..."I
After a careful study of Mr. McLennan's work, I am not sure that I have grasped his meaning here. The "tribe” of which he speaks must have been in the first place endogamous, because he supposes it to have become exogamous as the result of the practice of female infanticide. Here, then, we have an endogamous tribe becoming exoga
But, in the table of contents to Chapter VII. we read, “ Conversion of an endogamous tribe into an exogamous tribe inconceivable.” Turning to that part of the body of the work here indicated, we find the statement to be that the “reconversion of an endogamous tribe into an exogamous tribe is inconceivable.” But this does not help us. For there can be no difficulty in conceiving that which we have before our eyes at the present day in almost all savage peoples on the face of the earth-a tribe endogamous qua tribe—that is, marry. ing within its own limits, and yet split up into exogamous intermarry. ing divisions, classes, gentes, septs, clans, thums, keelis, or whatsoever else they may be called ; so that the law of marriage is distinctly erogamous. The confusion here evidently arises from want of precision in the use of the terms endogamy, exogamy, and tribe. Let us know the exact boundaries of the group to which they are applied, and then we shall be clear as to their meaning.
Again, turning to the general theory as set forth in Mr. McLennan's words already quoted, we find the following sequence :
1. Female infanticide was the general practice among the "primary hordes," and resulted in a scarcity of women, so causing polyandry and marriage by capture.
2. The tribe having thus taken to capturing women, acquired the habit of so doing, and became exogamous.
3. Exogamy having thus grown into a law, and neighboring tribes being, as a rule, hostile to one another, men could get their wives no otherwise than by capture.
Which may be fairly summed up as follows: Female infanticide causes marriage by capture. Marriage by capture causes exogamy. Exogamy causes marriage by capture.
I can not suppose this to have been Mr. McLennan's meaning, but I have failed to perceive any other. Two things, however, are clear, as forming the basis on which his theory stands :
*“Studies,” etc., p. 111.
| Ibid., p. 42.
Ibid., p. 109.
1. That “female infanticide" was the general practice among the “primary hordes”-in other words, that they killed many more female children than male.
2. That exogamous tribes existed under “circumstances in which men could only get wives by capturing them ”-in other words, that these tribes could not marry anywhere within their own boundaries, and were consequently compelled to capture their wives, there being no possibility of friendly intermarriage with other tribes.
Let us now test this basis, and see if it be secure : It is well known that infanticide is a very common practice among savage and barbaric tribes, and the opinion seems to prevail that “female infanticide”the killing of female children rather than male-is the general rule. This opinion is undoubtedly correct as to many tribes; but I venture to suggest that it needs reconsideration as far as the lower savages are concerned, and it is with them that the theory now under consideration has to do. I think it will be found that the practice is far less common with them than it is among the tribes who are more advanced, and for this opinion I will now endeavor to show cause.
Savages are perfectly logical people in their own way, and do not act without a motive, wbich, to their minds at least, is a sufficient one. So thoroughly have I been convinced of this by my fifteen years' residence among them, and close observation of their ways, that I do not hesitate to affirm that, whenever their acts appear capricious to us, we may be quite sure we do not understand their motives. The savage has no hesitation in killing his infant children, whether male or female, if they be in his way; but he does not kill any one of them for the mere sake of killing, and he certainly would not kill his daughters rather than his sons without a sufficient motive. Is such a motive to be found among the lower savages ?
The reasons usually given for female infanticide are thus stated by Sir John Lubbock and Mr. McLennan :
“Female children became a source of weakness in various ways. They ate and did not hunt. They weakened their mothers when young, and when grown up were a temptation to surrounding tribes."
To the same effect Mr. McLennan observes : “To tribes sur. rounded by enemies and unaided by art, contending with the difficulties of subsistence, sons were a source of strength, both for defense and in quest of food, daughters a source of weakness." +
The motive here advanced is, that females are an incumbrance to savages, and for this four reasons are given : 1. “They weaken their mothers when young.”
* “Origin of Civilization," second edition, p. 108.
2. “They eat and do not hunt”-i. e., they are food-consumers, but not food-providers.
3. They are "a source of weakness” as regards defense-i. e., they are in the way in war-time.
4. They are “a temptation to surrounding tribes."
force as regards the lower savages.
1. That children “weaken their mothers when young" may be a reason for infanticide, but it is no reason for killing female infants rather than male.
2. The assertion that women "eat and do not bunt" can not apply to the lower savages. On the contrary, whether among the ruder agricultural tribes, or those who are dependent on supplies gathered “ from forest and from flood,” the women are food-providers who supply more than they consume, and render most valuable service into the bargain. As a general rule they are the hardest workers and the most useful members of the community in times of peace.
3. And certainly they are not “a source of weakness” as regards defense. They are perfectly capable of taking care of themselves * in war-time; and, so far from being an incumbrance upon the warriors, they will fight, if need be, as bravely as the men, and with even greater ferocity. I could give some shocking proofs of this which have come under my own observation.
4. Finally, that they are “a temptation to surrounding tribes" does not appear to be a sufficient reason for killing them. They are far too valuable a possession to be cast away merely because the neighbors covet them. We do not find the Caffres exterminating their cattle because they are “a temptation to the surrounding tribes.”
It is among the more advanced tribes that the motives for female infanticide are found, and I believe the practice exists also to a greater extent than among the lower savages. Thus, where a costly dower has to be given with a girl in marriage, female infanticide is known to be very common. A daughter there is a special cause of imporerishment to her parents, whereas a son is a cause of enrichment. Here we have a motive which seems to act with considerable power, but it does not exist among the lower savages. For with them the dower—where one is given-is provided by the bridegroom's kinsmen and presented to the parents of the girl. Here, then, the conditions are reversed. It is the girl who is a cause of enrichment to her
* They who are accustomed to the ways of civilized women only can hardly believe what savage women are capable of even when they may well be supposed to be at their weakest. For instance, an Australian tribe on the march scarcely takes the trouble to halt for so slight a performance as a childbirth. The newly-born infant is wrapped in opossum-skins, the march is resumed, and the mother trudges on with the rest. Indeed, as is well known, among many tribes, it is the father who is put to bed, while the mother goes about her work as if nothing had happened.
parents at her marriage. And this is very far from being all the advantage they derive from her. Her husband has to feed them in peace, and to fight for them in war. Thus an Australian native divides all the game he takes according to certain established rules, and the choicest bits go to his wife's father. That a man has to fight on his father-in-law's side among many tribes who reckon descent through females has been recorded by several observers of savage life; and it is worthy of note that this duty still devolves upon him in some tribes, which, though they have advanced to descent through males, have not yet been able to free themselves from the traditions of the older line. Thus the Rev. R. Taylor says of the Maori-who keep records, carefully carved in wood, of long lines of male ancestors reaching up to the Nichts und Alles—that the son-in-law had to go into his father-in-law's hapu (clan) and “in case of war was often obliged to fight against his own relatives.* The custom was evidently on the way to extinction among the Maori, though still retaining great strength. This is evident from the fact that there was much rebellion against it on the part of the young men, some of whom, within Mr. Taylor's knowledge, refused to obey, and lost their wives in consequence; and, whenever there is as much opposition as this to an ancient custom among savages, we may be sure that a new custom has gained a footing strong enough to afford a sanction to the malcontents. That this custom is likely to be of general prevalence among the lower savages is evident from the fact that it is the logical result of their grouprelationships when descent is through the mother. Among then it is not that a man has to leave his own clan and go into his father-in-law's when he marries. He is of his father-in-law's clan by birth. Thus, if Dog and Snake be the totems, or badges, of two intermarrying clans : with descent through females the daughter of Dog is Snake, and the son of Snake is Dog. This Dog, the son of Snake, marries Snake, the daughter of Dog. That is, father-in-law and son-in-law are of the same totem, where there are but two intermarrying gentes; and a strong probability can be shown that this is the earliest form of a tribe with exogamous intermarrying divisions.
Therefore, since women are in no respect an incumbrance to the lower savages, but the reverse, it is evident that we do not find in the reasons given by Sir John Lubbock and Mr. McLennan a preferential motive for female infanticide.
And something more than this can be shown. Another motive for killing female children rather than male is found among agricultural tribes, who have descent through the father, in the fact that a woman can transmit neither the family name nor the family estate. She passes out of the line by marriage. And this with tribes who have that line of descent, and therefore-wherever they accept its consequences—ancestral worship offered to males alone by males alone, this is a very grave—the very gravest-consideration. The dead are dependent upon their male descendants for offerings, without which their shadowy existence would be to the last degree wretched ; and therefore, as every man knows he also must die, he is anxious during life to see a good provision made for his future wants—in other words, he is eager to have sons to succeed him. But neither is this motive to be found among the lower savages, for with them descent, and therefore inheritance, is through females. Hence we find in some such tribes the practice of "male infanticide"-that is to say, the practice of killing male children rather than female. Thus the Rev. R. H. Codrington, M. A., of the Church of England Melanesian mission, informed me, with regard to the people of Mota (Banks Island), that infanticide was common among them, and that “male children were killed rather than female, because of the family passing by the female side.”
* "Te Ika a Maui," p. 337.
We have seen that the first of the two postulates on which Mr. McLennan's theory depends is not to be readily granted. We have now to examine the second, which is
That exogamous tribes existed “under circumstances in which men could get wives only by capturing them."
A tribe to satisfy these conditions must be exogamous qua tribethat is to say, marriage must be forbidden everywhere within its limits. No man of the tribe must be able to take any one of its women to wife ; for, if the tribe be so constituted that its men can get their wives anywhere within its boundaries, it is manifest that it is not a tribe such as Mr. McLennan's theory requires.
His list of what he calls “exogamous tribes” is contained in Chapter V. of “Studies in Ancient History," and of all those tribes there is not one which satisfies his own conditions. Without exception, they are all divided into exogamous intermarrying clans; and therefore they can get wives without capturing them from other tribes.
Each one of them is an endogamous tribe or community, made up of exogamous intermarrying clans—that is, it marries within its own boundaries, but it prohibits marriage within any one of its clans. Once more we have to note that a confusion arises from Mr. McLennan's want of precision in using the term "tribe," and his own terms “endogamy” and “exogamy,” all of which are equally misleading, unless the area to which they are applied be clearly defined. But, whatever be the meaning which he gives to tribe, the cases cited by him in his fifth chapter are of no avail. For it is evident that in these cases the word “tribe” must mean one of two things : either
1. The whole nation or community; or
2. One of the exogamous clans—or the exogamous clans severally -into which the nation is divided.