THE ORIGIN OF MARRIAGE
From remote antiquity we are told of kings and rulers who instituted marriage amongst their subjects. We read in ‘Mahâbhârata,’ the Indian poem, that formerly “women were unconfined, and roved about at their pleasure, independent. Though in their youthful innocence, they went astray from their husbands, they were guilty of no offence; for such was the rule in early times.” But Swêtakêtu, son of the Rishi Uddâlaka, could not bear this custom, and established the rule that thenceforward wives should remain faithful to their husbands and husbands to their wives.8 The Chinese annals recount that, “in the beginning, men differed in nothing from other animals in their way of life. As they wandered up and down in the woods, and women were in common, it happened that children never knew their fathers, but only their mothers.” The Emperor Fou-hi abolished, however, this indiscriminate intercourse of the sexes and instituted marriage.9 Again, the ancient Egyptians are stated to be indebted to Menes for this institution,10 and the Greeks to Kekrops. Originally, it is said, they had no idea of conjugal union; they gratified their desires promiscuously, and the children that sprang from these irregular connections always bore the mother’s name. But Kekrops showed the Athenians the inconvenience to society from such an abuse, and established the laws and rules9 of marriage.11 The remote Laplanders, also, sing about Njavvis and Attjis, who instituted marriage, and bound their wives by sacred oaths.12
Popular imagination prefers the clear and concrete; it does not recognize any abstract laws that rule the universe. Nothing exists without a cause, but this cause is not sought in an agglomeration of external or internal forces; it is taken to be simple and palpable, a personal being, a god or a king. Is it not natural, then, that marriage, which plays such an important part in the life of the individual, as well as in that of the people, should be ascribed to a wise and powerful ruler, or to direct divine intervention?
With notions of this kind science has nothing to do. If we want to find out the origin of marriage, we have to strike into another path, the only one which can lead to the truth, but a path which is open to him alone who regards organic nature as one continued chain, the last and most perfect link of which is man. For we can no more stop within the limits of our own species, when trying to find the root of our psychical and social life, than we can understand the physical condition of the human race without taking into consideration that of the lower animals. I must, therefore, beg the reader to follow me into a domain which many may consider out of the way, but which we must, of necessity, explore in order to discover what we seek.
It is obvious that the preservation of the progeny of the lowest animals depends mainly upon chance. In the great sub-kingdom of the Invertebrata, even the mothers are exempted from nearly all anxiety as regards their offspring. In the highest order, the Insects, the eggs are hatched by the heat of the sun, and the mother, in most cases, does not even see her young. Her care is generally limited to seeking out an appropriate place for laying the eggs, and to fastening them to some proper object and covering them, if this be necessary for their preservation. Again, to the male’s share nothing falls but the function of propagation.13
In the lowest classes of the Vertebrata, parental care is likewise almost unheard of. In the immense majority of species, young fishes are hatched without the assistance of their parents, and have, from the outset, to help themselves. Many Teleostei form, however, an exception; and, curiously enough, it is the male on which, in these cases, the parental duty generally devolves. In some instances he constructs a nest, and jealously guards the ova deposited in it by the female; while the male of certain species of Arius carries the ova about with him in his capacious pharynx.14 Most of the Reptiles place their eggs in a convenient and sunny spot between moss and leaves, and take no further trouble about them. But several of the larger serpents have a curious fashion of laying them in a heap, and then coiling themselves around them in a great hollow cone.15 And female Crocodiles, as also certain aquatic snakes of Cochin China, observed by Dr. Morice, carry with them even their young.16
Among the lower Vertebrata it rarely happens that both parents jointly take care of their progeny. M. Milne Edwards states, indeed, that in the Pipa, or Toad of Surinam, the male helps the female to disburthen herself of her eggs;17 and the Chelonia are known to live in pairs. “La femelle,” says M. Espinas, “vient sur les plages sablonneuses au moment de la ponte, accompagnée du mâle, et construit un nid en forme de four où la chaleur du soleil fait éclore les œufs.”18 But it may be regarded as an almost universal rule that the relations of the sexes are utterly fickle. The male and female come together in the paring time; but having satisfied their sexual instincts they part again, and have nothing more to do with one another.
The Chelonia form, with regard to their domestic habits, a transition to the Birds, as they do also from a zoological and, particularly, from an embryological point of view. In the latter class, parental affection has reached a very high degree of11 development, not only on the mother’s side, but also on the father’s. Male and female help each other to build the nest, the former generally bringing the materials, the latter doing the work. In fulfilling the numberless duties of the breeding season, both birds take a share. Incubation rests principally with the mother, but the father, as a rule, helps his companion, taking her place when she wants to leave the nest for a moment, or providing her with food and protecting her from every danger. Finally, when the duties of the breeding season are over, and the result desired is obtained, a period with new duties commences. During the first few days after hatching, most birds rarely leave their young for long, and then only to procure food for themselves and their family. In cases of great danger, both parents bravely defend their offspring. As soon as the first period of helplessness is over, and the young have grown somewhat, they are carefully taught to shift for themselves; and it is only when they are perfectly capable of so doing that they leave the nest and the parents.
There are, indeed, a few birds that from the first day of their ultra-oval existence lack all parental care; and in some species, as the ducks, it frequently happens that the male leaves family duties wholly to the female. But, as a general rule, both share prosperity and adversity. The hatching of the eggs and the chief part of the rearing duties belong to the mother,19 whilst the father acts as protector, and provides food, &c.
The relations of the sexes are thus of a very intimate character, male and female keeping together not only during the breeding season, but also after it. Nay, most birds, with the exception of those belonging to the Gallinaceous family, when pairing, do so once for all till either one or the other dies. And Dr. Brehm is so filled with admiration for their exemplary family life, that he enthusiastically declares that “real genuine marriage can only be found among birds.”20
This certainly cannot be said of most of the Mammals. The mother is, indeed, very ardently concerned for the welfare of her young, generally nursing them with the utmost affection, but this is by no means the case with the father. There are cases in which he acts as an enemy of his own progeny. But there are not wanting instances to the contrary, the connections between the sexes, though generally restricted to the time of the rut, being, with several species of a more durable character. This is the case with whales,21 seals,22 the hippopotamus,23 the Cervus campestris,24 gazelles,25 the Neotragus Hemprichii and other small antelopes,26 reindeer,27 the Hydromus coypus,28 squirrels,29 moles,30 the ichneumon,31 and some carnivorous animals, as a few cats and martens,32 the yaguarundi in South America,33 the Canis Brasiliensis,34 and possibly also the wolf.35 Among all these animals the sexes remain together even after the birth of the young, the male being the protector of the family.
What among lower Mammals is an exception, is among the Quadrumana a rule. The natives of Madagascar relate that in some species of the Prosimii, male and female nurse their young in common36—a statement, however, which has not yet been proved to be true. The mirikina (Nyctipithecus trivirgatus) seems, according to Rengger, to live in pairs throughout the whole year, for, whatever the season, a male and a female are always found together.37 Of the Mycetes Caraya, Cebus Azarae,38 and Ateles paniscus,39 single individuals are very seldom, or never, seen, whole families being generally met with. Among the Arctopitheci,40 the male parent is expressly said to assist the female in taking care of the young ones.
The most interesting to us are, of course, the man-like apes. Diard was told by the Malays, and he found it afterwards to be true, that the young Siamangs, when in their helpless state, are carried about by their parents, the males by the father, the females by the mother.41 Lieutenant C. de Crespigny, who was wandering in the northern part of Borneo in 1870, gives the following description of the Orang-utan: “They live in families—the male, female, and a young one. On one occasion I found a family in which were two young ones, one of them much larger than the other, and I took this as a proof that the family tie had existed for at least two seasons. They build commodious nests in the trees which form their feeding-ground, and, so far as I could observe, the nests, which are well lined with dry leaves, are only occupied by the female and young, the male passing the night in the fork of the same or another tree in the vicinity. The nests are very numerous all over the forests, for they are not occupied above a few nights, the mias (or Orang-utan) leading a roving life.”42 According to Dr. Mohnike, however, the old males generally live with the females during the rutting season only;43 and Mr. Wallace never saw two full-grown animals together. But as he sometimes found not only females, but also males, accompanied by half-grown young ones,44 we may take for granted that the offspring of the Orang-utan are not devoid of all paternal care.
More unanimous are the statements which we have regarding the Gorilla. According to Dr. Savage, they live in bands, and all his informants agree in the assertion that but one adult male is seen in every band. “It is said that when the male is first seen he gives a terrific yell that resounds far and wide through the forest.... The females and young at the first cry quickly disappear; he then approaches the enemy in great fury, pouring out his horrid cries in quick succession.”45 Again, Mr. Du Chaillu found14 “almost always one male with one female, though sometimes the old male wanders companionless;”46 and Mr. Winwood Reade states likewise that the Gorilla goes “sometimes alone, sometimes accompanied by his female and young one.”47 The same traveller was told that, when a family of Gorillas ascend a tree and eat a certain fruit, the old father remains seated at the foot of the tree. And when the female is pregnant, he builds a rude nest, usually about fifteen or twenty feet from the ground; here she is delivered, and the nest is then abandoned.48
For more recent information about the Gorilla we are indebted to Herr von Koppenfells. He states that the male spends the night crouching at the foot of the tree, against which he places his back, and thus protects the female and their young, which are in the nest above, from the nocturnal attacks of leopards. Once he observed a male and female with two young ones of different ages, the elder being perhaps about six years old, the younger about one.49
When all these statements are compared, it is impossible to doubt that the Gorilla lives in families, the male parent being in the habit of building the nest and protecting the family. And the same is the case with the Chimpanzee. According to Dr. Savage, “it is not unusual to see ‘the old folks’ sitting under a tree regaling themselves with fruit and friendly chat, while ‘their children’ are leaping around them and swinging from branch to branch in boisterous merriment.”50 And Herr von Koppenfells assures us that the Chimpanzee, like the Gorilla, builds a nest for the young and female on a forked branch, the male himself spending the night lower down in the tree.51
Passing from the highest monkeys to the savage and barbarous races of man, we meet with the same phenomenon. With the exception of a few cases in which certain tribes are asserted to live together promiscuously—almost all of which15 assertions I shall prove further on to be groundless—travellers unanimously agree that in the human race the relations of the sexes are, as a rule, of a more or less durable character. The family consisting of father, mother, and offspring, is a universal institution, whether founded on a monogamous, polygynous, or polyandrous marriage. And, as among the lower animals having the same habit, it is to the mother that the immediate care of the children chiefly belongs, while the father is the protector and guardian of the family. Man in the savage state is generally supposed to be rather indifferent to the welfare of his wife and children, and this is really often the case, especially if he be compared with civilized man. But the simplest paternal duties are, nevertheless, universally recognized. If he does nothing else, the father builds the habitation, and employs himself in the chase and in war.
Thus, among the North American Indians, it was considered disgraceful for a man to have more wives than he was able to maintain.52 Mr. Powers says that among the Patwin, a Californian tribe which ranks among the lowest in the world, “the sentiment that the men are bound to support the women—that is to furnish the supplies—is stronger even than among us.”53 Among the Iroquois it was the office of the husband “to make a mat, to repair the cabin of his wife, or to construct a new one.” The product of his hunting expeditions, during the first year of marriage, belonged of right to his wife, and afterwards he shared it equally with her, whether she remained in the village, or accompanied him to the chase.54 Azara states that among the Charruas of South America, “du moment où un homme se marie, il forme une famille à part et travaille pour la nourrir;”55 and among the Fuegians, according to Admiral Fitzroy, “as soon as a youth is able to maintain a wife, by his exertions in fishing or bird-catching, he obtains the consent of her relations.”56 Again, among the16 utterly rude Botocudos, whose girls are married very young, remaining in the house of the father till the age of puberty, the husband is even then obliged to maintain his wife, though living apart from her.57
To judge from the recent account of Herr Lumholtz, the paternal duties seemed to be scarcely recognized by the natives of Queensland.58 But with reference to the Kurnai in South Australia, Mr. Howitt states that “the man has to provide for his family with the assistance of his wife. His share is to hunt for their support, and to fight for their protection.” As a Kurnai once said to him, “A man hunts, spears fish, fights, and sits about.”59 And in the Encounter Bay tribe the paternal care is considered so indispensable, that, if the father dies before a child is born, the child is put to death by the mother, as there is no longer any one to provide for it.60
Among the cannibals of New Britain, the chiefs have to see that the families of the warriors are properly maintained.61 As regards the Tonga Islanders, Martin remarks, “A married woman is one who cohabits with a man, and lives under his roof and protection;”62 and in Samoa, according to Mr. Pritchard, “whatever intercourse may take place between the sexes, a woman does not become a man’s wife unless the latter take her to his own house.”63 Among the Maoris, says Mr. Johnston, “the mission of woman was to increase and multiply; that of man to defend his home.”64 In Radack, even natural children are received by the father into his house, as soon as they are able to walk.65
The Rev. D. Macdonald states that, in some African tribes,17 “a father has to fast after the birth of his child, or take some such method of showing that he recognizes that he as well as the mother should take care of the young stranger.”66 Certain Africans will not even go on any warlike expedition when they have a young child;67 and the South American Guaranies, while their wives are pregnant do not risk their lives in hunting wild beasts.68 In Lado the bridegroom has to assure his father-in-law three times that he will protect his wife, calling the people present to witness.69 And among the Touaregs, according to Dr. Chavanne, a man who deserts his wife is blamed, as he has taken upon himself the obligation of maintaining her.70
The wretched Rock Veddahs in Ceylon, according to Sir J. Emerson Tennent, “acknowledge the marital obligation and the duty of supporting their own families.”71 Among the Maldivians, “although a man is allowed four wives at one time, it is only on condition of his being able to support them.”72 The Nagas are not permitted to marry until they are able to set up house on their own account.73 The Nairs, we are told, consider it a husband’s duty to provide his wife with food, clothing, and ornaments;74 and almost the same is said by Dr. Schwaner with reference to the tribes of the Barito district, in the south-east part of Borneo.75 A Burmese woman can demand a divorce, if her husband is not able to maintain her properly.76 Among the Mohammedans, the maintenance of the children devolves so exclusively on the father, that the mother is even entitled to claim wages for nursing them.77 And among the Romans, manus implied not only the wife’s subordination to the husband, but also the husband’s obligation to protect the wife.78
The father’s place in the family being that of a supporter and protector, a man is often not permitted to marry until he has given some proof of his ability to fulfil these duties.
The Koyúkuns believe that a youth who marries before he has killed a deer will have no children.79 The aborigines of Pennsylvania considered it a shame for a boy to think of a wife before having given some proof of his manhood.80 Among the wild Indians of British Guiana, says Mr. Im Thurn, before a man is allowed to choose a wife he must prove that he can do a man’s work and is able to support himself and his family.81 Among the Dyaks of Borneo,82 the Nagas of Upper Assam,83 and the Alfura of Ceram,84 no one can marry unless he has in his possession a certain number of heads. The Karmanians, according to Strabo, were considered marriageable only after having killed an enemy.85 The desire of a Galla warrior is to deprive the enemy of his genitals, the possession of such a trophy being a necessary preliminary to marriage.86 Among the Bechuana and Kafir tribes south of the Zambesi, the youth is not allowed to take a wife until he has killed a rhinoceros.87 In the Marianne Group, the suitor had to give proof of his bodily strength and skill.88 And among the Arabs of Upper Egypt, the man must undergo an ordeal of whipping by the relations of his bride in order to test his courage. If he wishes to be considered worth having, he must receive the chastisement, which is sometimes exceedingly severe, with an expression of enjoyment.89
The idea that a man is bound to maintain his family is, indeed, so closely connected with that of marriage and father19hood, that sometimes even repudiated wives with their children are, at least to a certain extent, supported by their former husbands. This is the case among the Chukchi of North-Western Asia,90 the Basutos in Southern Africa,91 and the Munda Kols in Chota Nagpore.92 Further, a wife frequently enjoys her husband’s protection even after sexual relations have been broken off. And upon his death, the obligation of maintaining her and her children devolves on his heirs, the wide-spread custom of a man marrying the widow of his deceased brother being, as we shall see in a subsequent chapter, not only a privilege belonging to the man, but, among several peoples, even a duty. We may thus take for granted that in the human race, at least at its present stage, the father has to perform the same function as in other animal species, where the connections between the sexes last longer than the sexual desire.
In encyclopedical and philosophical works we meet with several different definitions of the word marriage. Most of these definitions are, however, of a merely juridical or ethical nature, comprehending either what is required to make the union legal,93 or what, in the eye of an idealist, the union ought to be.94 But it is scarcely necessary to say how far I am here from using the word in either of these senses. It is the natural history of human marriage that is the object of this treatise; and, from a scientific point of view, I think there is but one definition which may claim to be generally admitted, that, namely, according to which marriage is nothing else than a more or less durable connection between male and female, lasting beyond the mere act of propagation till after20 the birth of the offspring. This definition is wide enough to include all others hitherto given, and narrow enough to exclude those wholly loose connections which by usage are never honoured with the name of marriage. It implies not only sexual relations, but also living together, as is set forth in the proverb of the Middle Ages, “Boire, manger, coucher ensemble est mariage, ce me semble.”95 And, though, rather vague, which is a matter of course, it has the advantage of comprehending in one notion phenomena essentially similar and having a common origin.
Thus, as appears from the preceding investigation, the first traces of marriage are found among the Chelonia. With the Birds it is an almost universal institution, whilst, among the Mammals, it is restricted to certain species only. We observed, however, that it occurs, as a rule, among the monkeys, especially the anthropomorphous apes as well as in the races of men. Is it probable, then, that marriage was transmitted to man from some ape-like ancestor, and that there never was a time when it did not occur in the human race? These questions cannot be answered before we have found out the cause to which it owes its origin.
It is obvious that where the generative power is restricted to a certain season, it cannot be the sexual instinct that keeps male and female together for months or years. Nor is there any other egoistic motive that could probably account for this habit. Considering that the union lasts till after the birth of the offspring, and considering the care taken of this by the father, we may assume that the prolonged union of the sexes is, in some way or other connected with parental duties. I am, indeed, strongly of opinion that the tie which joins male and female is an instinct developed through the powerful influence of natural selection. It is evident that, when the father helps to protect the offspring, the species is better able to subsist in the struggle for existence than it would be if this obligation entirely devolved on the mother. Paternal affection and the instinct which causes male and female to form somewhat durable alliances, are thus useful mental dispositions21 which, in all probability, have been acquired through the survival of the fittest.
But how, then, can it be that among most animals the father never concerns himself about his progeny? The answer is not difficult to find. Marriage is only one of many means by which a species is enabled to subsist. Where parental care is lacking, we may be sure to find compensation for it in some other way. Among the Invertebrata, Fishes, and Reptiles, both parents are generally quite indifferent as to their progeny. An immense proportion of the progeny therefore succumb before reaching maturity; but the number of eggs laid is proportionate to the number of those lost, and the species is preserved nevertheless. If every grain of roe, spawned by the female fishes, were fecundated and hatched, the sea would not be large enough to hold all the creatures resulting from them. The eggs of Reptiles need no maternal care, the embryo being developed by the heat of the sun; and their young are from the outset able to help themselves, leading the same life as the adults. Among Birds, on the other hand, parental care is an absolute necessity. Equal and continual warmth is the first requirement for the development of the embryo and the preservation of the young ones. For this the mother almost always wants the assistance of the father, who provides her with necessaries, and sometimes relieves her of the brooding. Among Mammals, the young can never do without the mother at the tenderest age, but the father’s aid is generally by no means indispensable. In some species, as the walrus,96 the elephant,97 the Bos americanus,98 and the bat,99 there seems to be a rather curious substitute for paternal protection, the females, together with their young ones, collecting in large herds or flocks apart from the males. Again, as to the marriage of the Primates, it is, I think, very probably due to the small number of young, the female bringing forth but one at a time; and, among the highest apes, as in man, also to the long period of infancy.100 Perhaps,22 too, the defective family life of the Orang-utan, compared with that of the Gorilla and Chimpanzee, depends upon the fewer dangers to which this animal is exposed. For “except man,” Dr. Mohnike says, “the Orang-utan in Borneo has no enemy of equal strength.”101 In short, the factors which the existence of a species depends upon, as the number of the progeny, their ability to help themselves when young, maternal care, marriage, &c., vary indefinitely in different species. But in those that do not succumb, all these factors are more or less proportionate to each other, the product always being the maintenance of the species.
Marriage and family are thus intimately connected with each other: it is for the benefit of the young that male and female continue to live together. Marriage is therefore rooted in family, rather than family in marriage. There are also many peoples among whom true conjugal life does not begin before a child is born, and others who consider that the birth of a child out of wedlock makes it obligatory for the parents to marry. Among the Eastern Greenlanders102 and the Fuegians,103 marriage is not regarded as complete till the woman has become a mother. Among the Shawanese104 and Abipones,105 the wife very often remains at her father’s house till she has a child. Among the Khyens, the Ainos of Yesso, and one of the aboriginal tribes of China, the husband goes to live with his wife at her father’s house, and never takes her away till after the birth of a child.106 In Circassia, the bride and bridegroom are kept apart until the first child is born;107 and among the Bedouins of Mount Sinai, a wife never enters her husband’s tent until she becomes far advanced in pregnancy.108 Among the Baele, the wife remains with her parents until she becomes a mother, and if this does not happen, she stays there for ever, the husband getting back what he has23 paid for her.109 In Siam, a wife does not receive her marriage portion before having given birth to a child;110 while among the Atkha Aleuts, according to Erman, a husband does not pay the purchase sum before he has become a father.111 Again, the Badagas in Southern India have two marriage ceremonies, the second of which does not take place till there is some indication that the pair are to have a family; and if there is no appearance of this, the couple not uncommonly separate.112 Dr. Bérenger-Féraud states that, among the Wolofs in Senegambia, “ce n’est que lorsque les signes de la grossesse sont irrécusables chez la fiancée, quelquefois même ce n’est qu’après la naissance d’un ou plusieurs enfants, que la cérémonie du mariage proprement dit s’accomplit.”113 And the Igorrotes of Luzon consider no engagement binding until the woman has become pregnant.114
On the other hand, Emin Pasha tells us that, among the Mádi in Central Africa, “should a girl become pregnant, the youth who has been her companion is bound to marry her, and to pay to her father the customary price of a bride.”115 Burton reports a similar custom as prevailing among peoples dwelling to the south of the equator.116 Among many of the wild tribes of Borneo, there is almost unrestrained intercourse between the youth of both sexes; but, if pregnancy ensue, marriage is regarded as necessary.117 The same, as I am informed by Dr. A. Bunker, is the case with some Karen tribes in Burma. In Tahiti, according to Cook, the father might24 kill his natural child, but if he suffered it to live, the parties were considered to be in the married state.118 Among the Tipperahs of the Chittagong Hills,119 as well as the peasants of the Ukraine,120 a seducer is bound to marry the girl, should she become pregnant. Again, Mr.Powers informs us that, among the Californian Wintun, if a wife is abandoned when she has a young child, she is justified by her friends in destroying it on the ground that it has no supporter.121 And among the Creeks, a young woman that becomes pregnant by a man whom she had expected to marry, and is disappointed, is allowed the same privilege.122
It might, however, be supposed that, in man, the prolonged union of the sexes is due to another cause besides the offspring’s want of parental care, i.e., to the fact that the sexual instinct is not restricted to any particular season, but endures throughout the whole year. “That which distinguishes man from the beast,” Beaumarchais says, “is drinking without being thirsty, and making love at all seasons.” But in the next chapter, I shall endeavour to show that this is probably not quite correct, so far as our earliest human or semi-human ancestors are concerned.