Front Page Titles (by Subject) CHAPTER VIII.: EAST EUROPEAN HOUSE COMMUNITIES. - Dissertations on Early Law and Custom
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CHAPTER VIII.: EAST EUROPEAN HOUSE COMMUNITIES. - Sir Henry Sumner Maine, Dissertations on Early Law and Custom 
Dissertations on Early Law and Custom, chiefly selected from Lectures delivered at Oxford (London: John Murray, 1883).
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EAST EUROPEAN HOUSE COMMUNITIES.
Nothing would be of higher value to scientific archæology than any addition to our opportunities of observing societies of Aryan race still remaining in a condition of barbarism. The practices of savage men, lying altogether beyond the circle of the greater races, have been carefully observed and compared of late years, and some generalisations of much ingenuity and interest have been founded on them; but the relation of these practices to the beginnings of our own civilisation is far from satisfactorily settled at present. The early usages of the now civilised societies can be partially recovered from their records, their traditions, and above all from their law; but it is just where these sources of evidence can least be depended upon, where history runs into poetry, tradition into legend, and definite law into dimly seen custom, that the connection between barbarous Aryan usage and savage non-Aryan practice has to be established, if it really exists. What we most require is the actual examination by trained observers of some barbarous or semi-barbarous community, whose Aryan pedigree is reasonably pure.
India has made contributions of great importance to the study of early institutions, and I hope to show, before the close of this paper, that among the most important are the most recent. Many portions of the social and family life of the high-caste Hindu unquestionably answer to stages of social development through which the earliest civilised communities of the West may just be seen passing in the twilight of their history. But there are some serious drawbacks on the value of Indian social facts, and some considerable limitations of their impressiveness. A great deal of the very ancient usage discoverable in India is non-Aryan. There are no doubt abundant remains of true Aryan barbarism, but it is not always easy to distinguish this from barbarism which is non-Aryan, and that which is really Aryan has been transformed to an unknown extent. A religion which has lost its affinity for the religions of the West is constantly penetrating and modifying it, and the newer influences of the English dominion are working upon it with ever-increasing effect. Whatever, too, be the value of Indian observations, they do not certainly at present produce the impression which might be expected on the European historical scholars who are busy with the rudiments of Western society. There is an evident distrust of illustrations of social growth taken from the usage of a people so remote as the Hindus, and so long parted from the sister-communities of the Aryan group.
No field of investigation seems to me to promise so much to the student of primitive social antiquity as that opened to us by the obvious thinning of the superficial crust of Mahommedan institutions spread over so great a part of the once civilised world. In all the countries now or lately under Mussulman dominion, strange and deeply interesting forms of ancient social organisation from time to time come into the light, like buried cities from volcanic ashes or lava. This remark must be confined to communities conquered by the Mahommedans and made tributary to them, but not converted to the Mahommedan faith. For the purposes of the scientific archæologist, a group of men converted to Mahommedanism becomes practically worthless, because from the moment of its conversion it lives under a civil law which is also a religious law, and which can only be explained at present as a religious law. The portions of ancient usage which in the present state of these inquiries yield most to the student of early institutions are those which, in modern phraseology, we should call the law of Inheritance and the law of Marriage. But a society which has adopted the Mahommedan law of inheritance has come under a system of rules of succession which may possibly embody some Arabian customs, but which on the whole can only be accounted for as consisting of strict deductions from the letter of texts assumed to be sacred. This system of rules arranges the heirs in classes unlike those known to modified or unmodified Aryan custom, and it is moreover a system of extremely definite division into fractional shares. On the other hand, under rudimentary Aryan usage, it is not the individual, but rather a collective group of kinsmen, which profits by the death of a relative; and it is exactly because the composition of this group, and the mode of devolution within it, probably reflect some more ancient method of collective enjoyment during life, that rules of intestate succession have nowadays so profound an interest. Again, the barbarous Aryan, still following Aryan custom, is not only generally monogamous, but (to use Mr. McLennan’s extremely convenient term) exogamous. He has a most extensive Table of Prohibited Degrees. The Mussulman, however, is not only polygamous but endogamous: that is, his law permits comparatively near relatives to intermarry. It has been noticed by good observers in India, that the comparative liberty of intermarriage permitted by Mahommedanism is part of the secret of its success as a proselytising religion. It offers a bribe to the convert in relieving him from the undoubtedly vexatious restraints of the Brahmanical law of marriage.
But where communities subject to Mussulman rule have never been converted to the Mussulman faith, the effect of the dominant Mahommedanism is to fix and stereotype their barbarism, where they are barbarous. A large number of them are socially organised in groups held together by the reality or the fiction of common blood; they possibly may never have attained to a higher organisation than this, or—what is more probable—the Mahommedan conquest may have not merely arrested their civilisation, but may have actually forced some of them to retrace part of the path by which they had ascended from a primitive barbarous condition. When, however, these groups are once organised on the well-known model of an association of kinsmen or tribesmen, there is much in Mahommedan government which tends to tighten the bonds by which they are held together. The members of Christian societies are most reluctant to enter the Mahommedan Courts, and thus they are led to value the domestic tribunals, which all naturally organised brotherhoods include. Again, community of life based upon consanguinity always implies common liability to the discharge of legal demands; and thus the fiscal exactions of the Mussulman ruler give a strong motive to the kinsfolk to keep the burden of taxation resting on as many shoulders as possible. The advantage of maintaining the liability of groups rather than the liability of individuals is also felt by the Mahommedan Governments themselves, and they are thus led to favour the integrity of these natural bodies, just as the French seigneurs are stated in mediæval law-books to have favoured the existence of communities of villeins living au même pot. The natural processes of dissolution to which such groups are subject are also much retarded by the indirect influence of Mahommedan power. The chief dissolving forces acting on primitive communities are war and commerce. One tears them to pieces and scatters the fragments abroad, the other disintegrates them, by creating inequalities of wealth; and nothing is harder (as will be seen presently) than for the rich and poor brethren to dwell together in unity. But a Mahommedan Government on the whole keeps the peace, and both by its acts of commission and by its sins of omission, by its irregular taxation, and by its failure to provide modes of easy communication and a pure and regular administration of justice, it retards or puts a stop to the accumulation of capital.
The closer examination of the Turkish provinces in Europe which many causes have recently made practicable has already recovered for us a nearly perfect example of one of the oldest institutions of the Aryan race—probably, with the exception of the Family, the very oldest. The House Community is not peculiar to the territories and dependencies of the Turkish Empire, since it is found among all the South Slavonian populations, but it occurs in greatest completeness wherever men of the South Slavonian stock are now or have been lately under Mussulman government, or where, like the Montenegrins, they have had their whole history determined by incessant struggles with Mussulman power. The importance of these House Communities is easily understood by the student of what I may perhaps venture to call social and political embryology. They are a living form, very near to us and constantly brought nearer, of institutions rather hinted at than revealed in the most ancient records of a singularly large number of civilised nations. The Roman law, which supplies the only sure route by which the mind can travel back without a check from civilisation to barbarism, shows us society organised in separate families, each ruled by the Paterfamilias, its despotic chief. But it also exhibits vestiges of institutions not wholly forgotten, of certain associations of related families which still had something in common and might once have had a common life. There are some marks of these associations on law, and some more on religion, but practically in Roman legal history they are dead institutions. Next above the Family, there were vestiges among the Romans of a group which had no special collective name, the Agnati, or Agnatic Kindred, the collective body of kinsmen related exclusively through male descents, who either were, or might have been, under the paternal power of the same ancestor. Again, above the Agnatic Kindred, there was yet another and a more extensive group, of which the origin was lost in antiquity, but which was believed by the Romans themselves to have been formed as the Agnati were formed—that is, by descent through males alone from a real common male ancestor. This was the Gens. Nothing can be more interesting than to find alive in usage these groups which, as bodies having a corporate existence, are dead in Roman law. There can be no reasonable doubt that the House Community of the South Slavonians corresponds to one or other of the larger Roman groups, to the Hellenic γένος, the Celtic Sept, the Teutonic Kin. It answers still more closely to the Joint Family of the Hindus, which is itself a living though an extremely perishable institution. In what way it is related to certain associations of savage families, like it and yet very unlike it, upon which our attention has been fixed by the deeply interesting researches of Mr. McLennan (in his ‘Primitive Marriage’) and of Mr. Lewis Morgan (in his ‘Ancient Society’), is a point upon which it may one day be possible to have a clearer opinion when the savage and the Aryan group have been fully studied in the life.1
Fifteen or twenty years ago the institutions of the Slavonians had begun to attract attention, and it was becoming extremely probable that they would prove to be the bridge connecting two portions of the earth and mankind long arbitrarily separated, the East and the West. The Russian Village Communities were seen to be the Indian Village Communities, if anything in a more archaic condition than the eastern cultivating group. In the Village Community, however, the bond of common origin and kinship, though still recognised in language and to some extent in feeling, is feeble and indistinct; the model has been too often simulated by fictions for the sense of reality to be very strong. The related families no longer hold their land as an indistinguishable common fund—they have portioned it out, at most they redistribute it periodically; sometimes even that stage has been passed. They are on the high road to modern landed proprietorship. But in the Joint Family of the Hindus the agnatic group of the Romans absolutely survives—or rather, but for the English law and English courts, it would survive. Here there is a real, thoroughly ascertained common ancestor, a genuine consanguinity, a common fund of property, a common dwelling. And the Joint Family of the Hindus, save that it now lasts for fewer generations, is point for point the House Community of the South Slavonians. The distribution of these ancient groups in the countries in which they are found is well worth remarking. The North Slavonians or Russians have the Village Community. The House Community belongs specially to the South Slavonians, the Croatians, Dalmatians, Montenegrins, Servians, and the now Slavonised Bulgarians. On the other hand, in India, the Joint Family and the Village Community are often found side by side, sometimes indeed bound together by complex common relations. Even there, however, it has been observed that, where joint families are abundant, the village organisation is weak and village communities are rare; and this is notably the case in Lower Bengal.
The House Community then is an extension of the Family: an association of several and even of many related families, living together substantially in a common dwelling or group of dwellings, following a common occupation, and governed by a common chief. The law or custom which regulates these institutions has lately been subjected to a close examination by an eminent man of learning, whose writings are still obscured by that unfortunate veil of language which hides Slavonian literature from this generation of Englishmen. The name of Professor Bogišić is connected with several places, with which, now of all times, we should least expect to have literary associations. He is a native of Ragusa; his last work is published by the Academy of Sciences at Agram; he is a professor in the University of Odessa; and he has codified the laws of Montenegro. The results of his investigations are only known to me through some German translations of passages in them, and through a summary of a portion of them by M. Fédor Demelic. Nothing, in my opinion, can exceed their instructiveness. They show us the very way in which, amid a primitive tribal society of Aryan race, the personal relations and ideas of men become modified when the small groups of which they form part are absorbed in larger assemblages, both the large and the small group being respectively tied together by community of blood. They thus disclose to us Political Power in the embryo: the Chief growing out of the head of the household, the State taking its first beginnings from the Family. They are entitled to take their place by the side of some recent Indian investigations which I will describe presently, as new materials of the highest value for a theory of the condition of the higher races of men in a state of barbarism.
It would appear that in all the South Slavonian countries Natural Families, as they are called, are found intermixed with the House Communities. By a ‘natural family’ is meant a group consisting of the descendants of an ancestor still alive, while a house community is (almost invariably) an association of families all descended from a common ancestor deceased. These natural families have not been as carefully examined as could be wished; they had not the strangeness of the house community in the eyes of the observers, who again show no signs of being acquainted with the controversy which has arisen on the point whether the larger or the smaller group is the more ancient, and better entitled to be considered the cell out of which human society sprang. I have, however, no doubt myself, from a variety of indications, that these families are, as a rule, despotically governed by the eldest ascendant. Not only the legal writers, but all travellers in South Slavonian lands, have noticed the extraordinary respect of the South Slavonians for old age. ‘Without reverence for old men there is no salvation,’ is a Servian proverb. ‘A father,’ says another Slavonian maxim, ‘is like an earthly god to his son.’ A less reverent adage runs, ‘The reason why the devil knows so much is that he is so extremely old.’ Still more convincing evidence is furnished by the fact observed by Professor Bogišić, that the South Slavonians, like the Romans, maintain a clear distinction between Agnatic and Cognatic relationship, which they term respectively kinship through the great blood and kinship through the little. Thus a group of men, connected with a common ancestor through male descents (natural or adoptive) exclusively, are kinsmen of the great blood; they are kinsmen of the little blood when they include also the descendants of female relatives. Now the recognition of agnatic relationship is good evidence that patriarchal power either exists or has once existed in a community; there may have once been paternal power where there is no agnation, but where there is agnation there must almost certainly have been paternal power.2 The play, then, of relation between the Family and the House Community is exactly what we observe in India between the Family and the Joint Family. The family, when it does not dissolve by the swarming off of the children, expands into the house community; the community (though not so often as in India) breaks up into separate natural families. The process, for all the evidence before us, may have gone on from time immemorial.
The House Communities, which are found intermixed with the natural families, and which are constantly springing out of them, are as far as possible from being patriarchal despotisms; and they illustrate very clearly that diminution of paternal power which, as I have frequently insisted, shows itself when families, instead of dissolving at the death of an ancestor, hold together and take the first steps towards becoming a nation. The community at first sight is rather democratically than despotically governed, and it would in fact depend on the point of view from which the observer regarded it, whether he considered its government to be democratic, aristocratic, or monarchical. Every member of the body has an absolute right to be maintained, housed, and clothed out of the common fund. Every daughter of the associated families has a right to a marriage portion when she marries; every son has a right to a provision for his wife when he introduces her into the community. Every male of the brotherhood has a voice in its government. The assembly of kinsmen (the Skuptchina) meets every day as a rule, generally in the evening after work is over, under a tree in the neighbourhood of the common dwelling. All the affairs of the community are there discussed, and every man may theoretically mingle in the deliberations. Nevertheless, as a rule, it is the old men who debate; the authority which, as I before said, the South Slavonians assign to old age, makes the opinion of the old far more weighty than their individual voice; and in very large communities it would seem that it is generally the mature heads of families who attend the assembly. All this is exactly in harmony with what we know of the beginnings of Aristocracy throughout the Aryan world; but it should always be remembered that if the association were habitually militant, both the old men and the youths would probably fall into the background, and the authority in council would belong to the mature warrior who is foremost in arms.
Under another aspect, however, the government of the community is monarchical, and at all times its most important member is the House-Chief, the Domatchin. He alone represents the association in its dealings with other persons and members. The administration of all its affairs is in his hands: he allots the daily tasks; he presides at the common meals and distributes the food; he reprimands for faults or delinquencies; he is invariably addressed in language of the greatest respect; all rise on his entrance; no one covers his head or smokes in his presence; no amusement or ceremony commences till he appears or has announced that he will stay away. The council of the brotherhood does not review his acts, but it is expected that he will submit important cases to it, and its jurisdiction is called into exercise when new principles of administration have to be settled. The women of the community, it should be stated, are not directly under his authority; there is a house-mother who appoints their work, but she is, whenever it is possible, the wife of the house-chief, and is always subordinate to him.
The mode of appointing the House-Chief is in the highest degree interesting, and throws a strong light on a number of problems which meet us in the ancient history of the kingly office. The student of political embryology is familiar with the seeming contradictions between the facts just seen in the dim light which surrounds the beginnings of royal power. Sometimes the office of the Chief or King seems wholly elective, and its bestowal entirely determined by personal fitness; sometimes it appears to be hereditary, but then it is quite uncertain whether it will descend to the brother or to the eldest son of the last sovereign; in general the office is confined to men, yet here and there a woman in certain eventualities becomes lady or queen. Very ingenious explanations of these phenomena have lately been suggested. But the system of choosing the South Slavonian house-chief, while it exhibits exactly the same apparent uncertainty, shows at the same time that it arises from a very natural and intelligible cause—from the conflict between a sentiment and a necessity, between a very powerful feeling of respect for blood and a very clear sense of the pressure of the facts of life. First, the chief is elected by the collective brotherhood; but the brotherhood rarely, if ever, fails to choose a member of the family connected with the common ancestor through descents of primogeniture. Its inclination would be to choose the eldest son of the last chief, but its veneration for age, and its sense of the value of experience as a means of success in the struggle for existence, lead it constantly to elect the next brother of the last administrator. By its strong appreciation of the importance of individual capacity it is led occasionally to put a woman at its head—who in this case is quite distinct from the house-mother, governing the women under the house-chief. The practice of electing a woman to the chieftainship appears to be less common than was supposed by the travellers who first observed the house communities, and it is not impossible that they failed to discriminate between the two shapes which the authority of the house-mother takes. But undoubtedly a woman is occasionally placed not only over the women, but over the men of the community, and wherever this occurs it is for reasons of her especial fitness to undertake the administration. The leading case mentioned by my authorities is where a considerable part of the revenue of a community was derived from a boarding-school for girls kept by the ladies belonging to it. Of course, no such reason as this for choosing a woman to rule could have had effect in primæval ages, or even at the dawn of history. The explanation of the early female successions to sovereignties and lordships no doubt is that the circumstances of the time allowed unchecked play to respect for the claims of blood; the men being exhausted, a woman was taken rather than a new strain of blood introduced. Nevertheless, these Slavonian phenomena suggest that, even in the primitive militant communities, eminent capacity in a woman might overweigh the disadvantages of sex, and that every now and then a Deborah or an Artemisia might rule the tribe as the house-mother rules the house community. Sometimes, it should be noted, the woman chosen is the widow of the last chief, who during his lifetime shared his authority, more particularly over the females of the household.
It appears to be a general rule of all these house communities that the capital stock or fund necessary for carrying on the business of the association is incapable of alienation. The nature of this alienable property varies a good deal; thus, with a community of vine-growers, the fermenting vats cannot be parted with; and it is the usage with associations of distillers to apply the same principle to the apparatus of distillation. But the great majority of the house communities are purely agricultural, and it is remarkable that the property which the custom of these communities makes inalienable corresponds very closely to the res mancipi of the older Roman law: that is to say, it consists of land and plough oxen. It has often been suggested—by myself among others—that the objects placed by the Romans in the highest class of property were the commodities of first importance to an agricultural people; and though we only know the Roman res mancipi as alienable under certain circumstances, the very complexity of the formalities required for alienation furnishes a hint that they once constituted the inalienable capital stock of the ancient Latin cultivating communities. But these recently observed facts from Eastern Europe suggest some new ideas, not only concerning the res mancipi but also and more particularly concerning that other and technically inferior class of property, the res nec mancipi, in which the Romans placed all the objects of enjoyment not included in the higher division of things. I myself conjectured, some years ago, that the articles not enumerated among the favoured objects seem to have been placed on a lower standing, ‘because the knowledge of their value was posterior to the epoch at which the catalogue of superior property was settled. They were at first unknown, rare, limited in their uses, or else regarded as mere appendages to the privileged objects.’ I still think this description of the res nec mancipi probably true of some stages of primitive society, and if the last words, ‘appendages to the privileged objects,’ be understood of the products as distinguished from the instruments of labour, I think they are also true of the social stage of the ancient world to which the Slavonian house communities most nearly correspond. It may be supposed that the earliest cultivating communities were barely self-sufficing; that they never parted with their instruments of tillage, and consumed all the fruits which the earth yielded to their labour. But as production became more abundant, as intervals of peace became less rare, as common markets were gradually established, economical forces would begin to operate with greater activity, and the res nec mancipi would obtain their first step in dignity as commodities exchangeable at a profit. All the surplus produce of the domain would be res nec mancipi, and, if not stored, would be bartered or sold. We can see from the Slavonian examples that some things included in the higher class might locally and occasionally be dealt with as belonging to the lower. The Roman res mancipi—land, slaves, horses, and oxen—would no doubt answer to the commodities which primitive agriculturists would almost everywhere regard as properly inalienable, but it is likely that Roman authority generalised the usage beyond its primitive area. A community of cattle-breeders would regard oxen as eminently exchangeable, and even an agricultural community may originally have confined the inalienability to the oxen which served as beasts of plough.
Peculium—a few head of oxen kept apart—was the name which the Romans gave to the permissive separate property allowed to son or slave. No principle was more persistent in Roman law than the subjection of the peculium to the authority of the paterfamilias or the master, should he choose to exercise it; and the independent holding of the peculium, even by sons, was secured only by very late legislation. These Slavonian usages and the experience of the Slavonian communities give us reason to believe that the separate holding of property by the members of the brotherhood had a much more important influence in other societies than it had in one so sternly tenacious of a central principle as the Roman. The peculium seems to be always an actively dissolving force. It had this effect to some extent with the Romans, but with the Hindus it is the great cause of the dissolution of the joint families, and it seems to be equally destructive in the South Slavonian countries. When the house community is in its primitive and natural state, there is no peculium: there is none in Montenegro; the dominant notion there is that, as the community is liable for the delinquencies of its members, it is entitled to receive all the produce of their labour; and thus the fundamental rule of these communities, as of the Hindu joint families, is that a member working or trading at a distance from the seat of the brotherhood ought to account to it for his profits. But, as in India, all sorts of exceptions to this rule tend to grow up; the most ancient and most widely accepted appearing to be, that property acquired by extremely dangerous adventure belongs independently to the adventurer. Thus, even in Montenegro, spoil of war is retained by the taker, and on the Adriatic coast the profits of distant maritime trade have from time immemorial been reserved to seafaring members of these brotherhoods. But the reluctance to surrender individual gains is a sentiment observed to be gaining in force everywhere, and, in connection with some other causes which I will mention afterwards, it universally tends to bring about the dissolution of the communities. Doubtless it was always among the most potent of the influences which began to transform the old world of consanguinity into the new world of economical relation.
The situation of women in the primitive groups of barbarous Aryans, is a topic which calls for much ampler and more minute discussion than can be given to it within my present limits. I will, however, briefly note one or two points among a considerable number which deserve separate treatment. (a) The house community of the South Slavonians, like the joint family of the Hindus, is primarily a community of males. The daughters are entitled to be married and portioned at its expense, and steps are taken to bring about their marriage before any son is married, but they have no right to any share of the capital stock on the rare occasions on which it is divided. (b) At present a certain liberty is allowed to them in the choice of a husband, but in the South Slavonian lands, as elsewhere, there are many vestiges of infant marriage. Down to quite recently, a Christian girl in Eastern Europe was irrevocably betrothed, though not married, in early childhood. (c) The wives of the confederated kinsmen brought into the community from outside have their marriage portion reserved to them as separate property or peculium, and a certain amount of money or goods (which many customs enable us to trace to the ancient institution of the ‘morning gift’) is held by them independently, not only of the collective group, but of their husbands. (d) In some of the house communities both this property and the marriage portion, both the parapherna and the dos, descend, like the Hindu Stridhan, by a peculiar line of succession to female inheritresses.
Like all branches of the Aryan race which remain in a condition still savouring of barbarism, but which have not adopted Mahommedan institutions, the South Slavonians bring their wives into the groups in which they are socially organised from a considerable distance outside. To this ‘exogamy,’ in the primitive militant state, they no doubt owed hardihood, physical vigour, and relative success in the struggle for existence; and at the present moment the common residence of so many persons of both sexes in the same household may be said to be only possible through their belief that any union of kinsmen and kinswomen would be incestuous. The South Slavonian Table of Prohibited Degrees is extremely wide. Every marriage which requires an ecclesiastical dispensation is regarded as disreputable; and, though the rule of ecclesiastical jurisprudence on prohibitions against intermarriage is tolerably followed, it is rendered excessively stringent by a peculiar method of counting the degrees. The distaste of the South Slavonians for suing in the Turkish Courts is largely caused by these ideas about intermarriage. Mahommedanism, as I before stated, is an ‘endogamous’ religion; it derives from its Semitic origin a rather limited Table of Prohibited Degrees; and thus a Turkish Court, though not professing to apply the Mahommedan rules, is constantly found admitting the legitimacy of children born of a marriage which the Christian Slavonians consider to be incestuous. Nobody can wonder at the repugnance of the Slavonians towards entering the Turkish Courts as litigants in cases where their women are concerned; but undoubtedly some of the principles which they accuse the Turkish judges of applying have more in common with our ideas than with theirs. Besides this complaint on the subject of intermarriage and legitimacy, the Slavonians are said by Professor Bogišić to resent the application of rules, Mahommedan in origin, to the inheritance of property by women. Under Mahommedan law, wherever sons and daughters take together, the daughters take half a son’s share. Now the custom of the house communities excludes the daughters from any share when the common fund is divided, either at a death or otherwise. The deeply rooted and very ancient notion is that an unmarried daughter is only entitled to maintenance, and that a married daughter is finally and exclusively provided for by her marriage portion.
I have here noticed the practices called by Mr. McLennan ‘exogamy’ and ‘endogamy’ chiefly for the purpose of calling attention to the manifold and surprising fictions by which an inherited sense of the advantage of exogamy and of the disadvantage of close intermarriage is reconciled with the doctrine of the Eastern Church on the point. It is to be remarked that every variety of fiction heretofore observed among ancient societies held together by the assumption of common descent is found among the Christian Slavonians of Eastern Europe. Kinship is in the first place created artificially by Adoption, and in this case the adopted member of a family or house community is assimilated to the naturally born kinsman for all purposes indiscriminately. Entire subfamilies are engrafted on the house communities; individuals are taken into the subfamilies; and occasionally aged men, strangers in blood to the brotherhood, are admitted to a place among the elders of the joint household from whom labour is no longer exacted or expected. It seems to be a universal condition of the Slavonian adoption, that the person or family received into the house community shall be virtually without natural ties through the death or emigration of the natural kindred: a precaution which may remind us of the extreme care bestowed by the Roman College of Pontiffs, that the ceremonial observances of two families should not be confounded through a precipitate adoption. But besides the artificial adoptive relation, which stands for all purposes on the same level as natural connection of blood, there are numerous other fictitious relationships which exist chiefly for the purpose of preventing intermarriage. Several of these correspond to the fictitious ties which are shown by their ancient law to have been common among the Celtic Irish at the opposite end of Europe. Thus the relation of foster-parent to foster-child creates relations between their respective families which operate as a bar to intermarriage. Gossipred, spiritual parentage, the connection between sponsor and godchild, has the same effects among the South Slavonians which it once had over the whole Christian world. But there are in Eastern Europe forms of fictitious consanguinity hitherto unknown to the study of ancient institutions. The groomsman at a wedding comes under a set of rules which restrict intermarriage with the family of the bride to just the same effect as if he had been naturally the brother of the bridegroom. Confraternity, fictitious brotherhood—which is an artificial creation of fraternity, just as adoption is an artificial creation of parentage—retains probably in these Slavonian lands the shape which it wore in more westerly countries before it became the central principle of so many orders of knighthood; it is solemnised with a special ritual of the Slavo-Greek Church, and it is the source of a special Table of Prohibited Degrees. But perhaps the most singular illustration of the tendency of kinship to extend itself artificially under the empire of primitive ideas is to be found in certain Slavonic forms of gossipred or spiritual relationship. Here we have fiction upon fiction. The relation of sponsor to godchild imitates consanguinity; the Slavonian gossipred imitates the ecclesiastical gossipred. A man whose life is endangered by the enmity of another may make him an offer of what is called gossipred by misfortune. If the enemy refuses, he may be lawfully killed even by treachery. If he accepts, he becomes connected with his former adversary by a kind of spiritual relationship, and is in fact compelled to become sponsor to his next-born child. These peculiar artificial relations in the wilder Slavonian countries, and particularly in Montenegro, are found extremely useful in staunching blood-feuds. When a momentary reconciliation has been effected by friends or neighbours between Montenegrin Capulets and Montagues, it is common to give it stability by insisting that the heads of the contending houses shall become spiritually related to one another. The expedient is well known as the gossipred of reconciliation. The truth is that mere sentiment has not among these people solidity enough to form a binding tie between man and man. If it is to bear the ordinary strains of barbarous life, it must have a core of fictitious consanguinity.
I stated that the House Communities and Natural Families which make up the bulk of South Slavonian society are constantly running into one another; the community dissolving into a mere collection of families, the family expanding into the community. But both these groups occasionally dissolve in other ways, and some instruction may be obtained from observing the mode of dissolution. When a natural family breaks up, room is made, I need scarcely say, for the operation of the body of rules which we call Inheritance; and in those portions of the South Slavonian countries which are under Codes, as, for example, those which belong to the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy, the law settles the distribution of the family fund, and to some extent the personal relations of the kinsmen to one another. But where, as in Turkey, the local usage is left to its unchecked operation, one of the systems of succession commonly followed has a great deal of interest for us. Each son of the family, as he grows up and marries, leaves his father’s household, taking with him the share of its possessions which under developed law would have devolved upon him at his father’s death, and he goes elsewhere, often into a far country, to seek a new fortune. Perhaps there are few things which at first sight seem to have a more distant connection with one another than the customs of Primogeniture and Borough English and the Scriptural parable of the Prodigal Son. Yet precisely the same group of usages lies at the root of the institution and gives its point to the story. The division of the family property does not wait for the father’s death. The son who wishes to leave the family home takes his share with him, and goes abroad to add to it or waste it. The son who remains at home continues under patria potestas, serving his father and never transgressing his commandments, but entitled at his death to the entire remnant of his property. ‘Son, thou art ever with me, and all that I have is thine,’ says the father in the parable, and this is precisely the foundation of the rule of ancient law. Which indeed shall be the home-staying son is a point on which there has been much diversity of usage. In the Scriptural example, it is the eldest son. Primogeniture, as we know it in our law, had rather a political than a civil origin, and comes from the authority of the feudal lord and probably from that of the tribal chief; but here and there on the Continent there are traces of it as a civil institution, and in such cases the succession of the eldest son does not exclude provision for the younger sons by what are called appanages. The evidence of ancient law and usage would, however, seem to show that it was usually the youngest son who remained at home with his father to serve him through life and succeed to his remaining property at his death; and thus the Slavonian usage accurately reflects the earliest stage of the English custom of Borough English.3
If we take a survey of the Slavonian usages as a whole we shall have little doubt that the natural development of the House Community would be into the Village Community. It has almost universally assumed this form in the Russian territories. The number of families included in the brotherhood has now become much larger. Professor Bogišić says that the house communities rarely include more than sixty individuals, which is greatly less than the number of persons making up the community of an Indian or Russian village. But with the extensions have come a variety of changes. The land, instead of being cultivated absolutely in common, is divided between the component families, the lots shifting among them periodically, or perhaps vesting in them as their property, subject to a power in the collective body of villagers to veto its sale. The tie of brotherhood has also become greatly weakened; all sorts of fictions have enfeebled it, and so many strangers in blood have been admitted, that the tradition of a common origin is dim or lost. The common house of the House Communities tends constantly in the South Slavonian countries to become a group of dwellings, but the Village Community is essentially an assemblage of separate houses, each ruled by its own chief. The reason why the Southern communities have held compactly together, while the Northern communities have relaxed and extended themselves, can in the main only be guessed at; but we can hardly be very wrong in conjecturing that the nearness or remoteness of Mahommedan power had a great deal to do with it. This Mahommedan power is doubtless the secret of the survival of both forms of the community; but the South Slavonian communities, closer to the headquarters of Ottoman dominion, needed a stronger and more compact organisation to protect their possessions, institutions, and faith, while the Russian populations were only occasionally and intermittently scourged by the invasions of their Tartar suzerain. In comparatively recent times, the house communities have chiefly had to complain of irregular exactions from their Turkish masters; on the whole the Turkish Government has encouraged them, just as the French feudal lords seem to have encouraged the house communities lately discovered in France, on account of their relative opulence, and on account of the better security thus afforded for the punctual payment of taxes and dues.
Assuming that the decay or dissolution of the House Communities is matter of regret, there is no doubt as to the quarter in which they find their most dangerous foes. It is not barbarism which they have to dread, but civilisation. All the recent observers of the South Slavonian communities lament the influence of modern codes in undermining or destroying them. The same destructive effects are attributed to the older Austrian code which is in force on the Eastern shores of the Adriatic, and to the newer laws introduced into the Slavonic lands dependent on the Hungarian Crown. I can well believe these statements, as I have frequently observed the unintended disintegration of the Indian joint families by the less violent operation of Anglo-Indian law. Legal maxims apparently the most innocent prove to be fraught with peril. Long since I pointed out that the widespread principle of modern law, ‘Nemo in communione potest invitus detineri,’ ‘No one can be kept in co-ownership against his will,’ was irreconcilable with archaic usage; and Professor Bogišić dwells on the destructiveness of a well-known doctrine of the eminent German jurist, Puchta, that, where a law and an usage are at conflict, the same rules of interpretation should be applied in harmonising them which are employed to reconcile two contradictory provisions of law. It is very justly objected that laws theoretically proceed from the same legislator, who is assumed to have contradicted himself by accident, whereas law and usage constantly spring from historically different sources. The tendency of modern courts administering modern law is in short to look upon the house communities as bodies of voluntary partners, and to draw from it the inference that they may dissolve at the will either of any one associate or at all events of a majority.
These purely legal causes of dissolution are further strengthened by economical causes, which now constantly tend, as probably they have always tended, to sap all associations founded on consanguinity. The adventurous and energetic member of the brotherhood is always rebelling against its natural communism. He goes abroad and makes his fortune, and strenuously resists the demand of his relatives to bring it into the common account. Or perhaps he thinks that his share of the common stock would be more profitably employed by him as capital in a mercantile venture. In either case he becomes a dissatisfied member or a declared enemy of the brotherhood. And just where this kind of discontent is commonest, the facilities for indulging it are greatest. For the Slavonian countries which have Codes are of course the best governed Slavonian countries. There wealth is more easily obtained, and its preservation is easier; and there also the courts of justice are open to arguments which, if successful, are fatal to the cohesion of the house communities, because they appeal to principles born amid a civilisation to which the ancient natural associations of mankind were foreign or unknown. The first French Revolution has sometimes been charged with having left its chief mark on law in an excessive preference for partitions and for sharply drawn lines of division between proprietary rights; and it has been thought to have thus led by reaction to the modern theories of Socialism and Communism. But this preference is as characteristic of the Roman law as of the French Code; and in fact the Austrian Code, which has proved so fatal to the house communities, was begun before the Revolution by the Emperor Joseph II. I have no doubt that the peculiarity is less attributable to the discontents of the eighteenth century than to its growing wealth, and to the increasing activity of all economical forces.
The legal history of the North Slavonians seems likely to furnish us with a mass of information on the mode in which feudal lordships and the kinds of property dependent upon them grew out of the older social and proprietary organisations. But the South Slavonian House Community I believe to be older in order of development than the Village Community of the Russians, and hence it helps little to throw light on the most difficult of all historico-legal problems, the rise of feudal ownership. One significant statement is however made, that on the Austrian military frontier, where house communities were planted on lands held by a tenure of military service, the authority of the house-chief assumed more and more of a despotic character, and he could sometimes be hardly distinguished from a sole owner of the originally common domain.
These new Slavonian materials for a theory of the growth of Aryan society, valuable as they are, have one drawback; they are the phenomena of tribal groups which for a long period of time have not been fully exposed to the stern process of natural selection. The Mahommedan governments above them have on the whole prevented their engaging in war or brigandage; if they have fought, it has generally been against a common Mussulman foe. Fortunately, it has just now become possible to place by their side another set of novel facts, gleaned by an Indian observer from an Aryan society which has hardly ceased to be violently disturbed. These results, obtained by actual inspection of Rajputana, the home of the Rajput clans, are in fact related to the results of Professor Bogišić, as are the phenomena of barbarous and militant to the phenomena of barbarous but peaceful communities. Excellent observers have never been wanting in the Indian services, but it is the exceptional distinction of Sir Alfred Lyall, the gentleman to whom I am referring, that he understands the nature of the problems suggested by the most recent archæological research; and thus his appointment to a Commissionership in the wild province of Berar in Central India, and to the high office of Agent of the Governor-General in Rajputana, may be said to have begun a new epoch in the investigation of Indian Aryan usage in the stage most conveniently called barbarous. For what follows I am indebted to his writings, now collected in a volume called ‘Asiatic Studies;’ and more particularly to chapter vii., on the ‘Formation of Clans and Castes,’ and chapter viii., on ‘The Rajput States of India.’
The social system of Rajputana is pure clanship; society is held together entirely by the tie of blood; nor is there any serious question that its kernel consists of Aryans, still barbarous, indeed, but of the purest breed. Though the pretension is resisted by the Brahmans, the Rajputs claim to represent the ancient regal and military caste of the Sanscrit religious literature, the Kchatryas. The circumstance that villages of Rajputs, often of a very humble station, are occasionally found over most of Northern India, admits of a simple explanation. Originally a conquering and military race, the Rajputs seem to have been first weakened by the attacks of indigenous tribes of humbler origin, and finally overwhelmed by Mahommedan conquest. Some of them bowed their necks to the yoke, and remained as peaceful cultivators in the plains of India; but others migrated into the great natural fastness now called from them Rajputana, where they founded societies all of one type. The valour of the Rajputs and the strength of their country long preserved them from being reduced into mere subjects of the Mogul, but perhaps their greatest influence has been derived from their intense pride in blood and birth. No princesses were so much coveted for wives by the emperors at Agra and Delhi as the daughters of Oodeypore and Jeypore; and alliance with them is still regarded by Hindus as above all price. The lowest point, however, which their fortunes reached was just before the British conquest of Northern India; no states owe more to the success of the British arms, and none are governed by princes more loyal to the British Crown.
These Rajput clans have long been recognised as in the highest degree interesting and worthy of the most careful observation. As I said before, good observers of social phenomena have been plentiful in India, but unfortunately, in the case of Rajputana, the interpretation of the phenomena has been much vitiated by a false historical theory. One of the most careful, learned, and valuable books ever written about India is Tod’s ‘Rajasthan,’ but the author laboured under the erroneous impression that the most ancient type of society is that which we call feudal. Society in Rajputana or Rajasthan is not, however, feudal; it is præ-feudal or tribal; at the utmost, some of the signs of inchoate feudalism may be detected in it; and thus Colonel Tod’s constant references to the well-known incidents of feudal tenure are extremely misleading. Sir Alfred Lyall has now shown that the true instructiveness of the country comes from its illustrating, not the mechanism of feudalism, but the method of tribal formation and development, the stages by which Aryan consanguinity grew to its perfect form.
It results from the inquiries and observations of Sir Alfred Lyall that in Rajputana, the land of the clans, and in the wilder Indian countries under Rajput clannish influence, two sets of forces or agencies are constantly at work, disintegrating agencies and organising agencies, forces of dispersion and forces of consolidation. All of these have seemingly been in operation from time immemorial, though some of them are losing their activity under British supervision or administration, and may ultimately die out altogether.
The dispersing forces are mainly war, pestilence, and famine. War, in the countries under British authority, takes now the form of brigandage, but pestilence and famine have at most been brought under some degree of control. ‘It is well known,’ says Lyall, ‘from history, and on a small scale from experience of the present day, how famines, wide desolating invasions, pestilences, and all great social catastrophes, shatter to pieces the framework of Oriental societies, and disperse the fragments abroad, like seeds, to take root elsewhere.’ There are clans apparently of real common descent which are also local clans, still occupying the seats of which they first took possession, or to which they emigrated as a body; but many of these circles of kinsmen have been and still are broken up, and all of them or portions of them have been driven away to any place in which they can find refuge or subsistence. The Fuidhir, or broken man, is as common in Central India as he was in ancient Ireland. Yet it is not to be supposed that the original kinship is broken in idea as it is in fact. Each fugitive or emigrant retains the memory of the stock from which he sprang, partly from pride of blood, partly because he carries with him his usages of intermarriage, and would think it incest to marry a son or daughter within the prohibited degree. Thus, wherever he settles, he tends to become a new root for a Rajput γένος, gens, or sept, and the centre of a new circle of affinity. The effect is to produce a structure of society extremely like that which meets us in the beginnings of classical history. As will be seen presently, the fugitive is at once placed under a new order of relations with the neighbouring families in contact with whom he actually lives, but he is not released from connection with his natural kith and kin, just as a Roman or Athenian noble, settled at any point of the Ager Romanus or the Attic territory, would still count himself a member of his patrician house or eupatrid tribe.
It seems to me highly probable that these forces of dispersion acted on the ancient tribal organisation of more northerly branches of the Aryan race. But, if the conjecture may be permitted, I should say that they operated on a smaller scale. Wars were probably as bloody and frequent among the forerunners of the Romans and Athenians as among the Rajputs, but pestilence and famine have always been more destructive in tropical regions. Thus the fugitive was driven to a smaller distance. It is, however, no more incredible that an Athenian family settled in a particular locality of Attica should have been at some time expelled from its original tribal home, than that, in later times, a citizen of Athens should deem himself a hopeless exile at Corinth or Megara. In order to understand the most ancient condition of human society, all distances must be reduced, and we must look at mankind, so to speak, through the wrong end of the historical telescope.
It has still to be considered how it comes that an emigrant or fugitive Rajput, besides retaining his connection with his natural tribe of descent, enters into new relations with the families among whom he has settled. Here, in order to understand some of the most interesting of Sir Alfred Lyall’s observations, we must attend to his distinction between pure and impure tribes.
A pure tribe is a tribe of descent, living together generally in the same local seat, and having a real genealogy. Such tribes are still founded in the same way in which they have always been founded. ‘Whereas,’ says Sir Alfred Lyall, ‘in modern times great men of action found dynasties or noble families, which transmit the founder’s name down along the chain of direct lineage, so in prehistoric ages men of the same calibre founded clans or septs, in which not only the founder’s actual kinsfolk who followed his fortunes were enrolled, but all who had any share in his enterprises.’ All such clans in Rajputana claim to run up to a single ancestor; and probably the pedigree even of those which pretend to the most prodigious antiquity is to a great extent genuine. For literature in Rajputana still retains that which we may believe to have been its most ancient form— in the songs of the hereditary bard, celebrating the exploits, and above all the antiquity, of the family of which he is the honoured retainer. These bardic genealogies may probably be trusted up to a certain point; but even the least imaginary of them have been doubtless to some extent affected by fictions. Not only are the kinsfolk of the eponymous heroic founder mentioned, but all who followed him in the original adventure come in time to be reckoned as kinsmen. The pedigree is lengthened sometimes through unintentional error, clansmen who lived at the same time being counted as belonging to successive generations, and sometimes through deliberate or poetical exaggeration. The main trunk of the family tree is carried beyond the true founder, and finds its root in a god or among the luminaries of heaven. The proudest princely houses of Rajputana pretend to a descent from the sun and the moon, but a real human founder, an adventurous and successful warrior, can generally be detected. As Sir Alfred Lyall says, the best type of the founder of a pure clan is David, the son of Jesse, with his hard-fighting kinsmen, the sons of Zeruiah.
The most original result of Sir Alfred Lyall’s investigations is his determination of the manner in which impure clans are formed. In a work published some years ago, I said that the conclusion suggested by the evidence then accessible was, ‘not that all early societies were formed by descent from the same ancestor, but that all of them which had any permanence or solidity either were so descended, or assumed that they were. An indefinite number of causes may have shattered the primitive groups, but wherever their ingredients recombined, it was on the model or principle of an association of kindred.’4 An impure tribe or clan is not a body of kinsmen, but a body formed on the model or principle of an association of kinsmen. Sir Alfred Lyall has been fortunate enough to see these associations in the actual course of formation.
Not only (he says) do robber tribes receive bands of recruits during periods of confusion, but there goes on a steady enlistment of individuals or families whom a variety of incidents or offences, public opinion or private feuds, drives out of the pale of settled life and beyond their orthodox circles. Upon this dissolute collection of masterless men the idea of kinship begins to operate afresh, and to rearrange them systematically in groups. Each new immigrant becomes one of a new tribe, but he adheres nevertheless so far to his origin and his custom as to insist on setting up a separate circle under the name of his lost clan, caste, family, or lands. Where an Englishman, settling perforce in Botany Bay, or spontaneously in Western America, kept up familiar local associations by naming his homestead after the county town in his old country, a Rajput, driven into the jungles, tries to perpetuate the more primitive recollection of race.
In this way new clans are constantly forming, under the presidency or hegemony of some successful family, and always with a mechanism of social arrangements closely copied from the internal relations of the principal group. The leading family will often consist of real Rajput emigrants, and in this case the whole of the new clan will have a faint sort of claim to be recognised as of Rajput origin, but the proud Rajputs of the ancient stock will only allow the pretension after very strict examination of the emigrant’s pedigree. Sometimes it will happen that the chief who becomes the kernel of the new association is a mere captain of robbers, but it is generally found that in a generation or two his descendants will lay claim on curiously slender grounds to a Rajput extraction. A great many of the stories current in India about the loves of gods, and about princes or princesses stolen in their infancy, have really been devised to give colour to fictitious pedigrees; and this is the humble and commonplace beginning of many popular tales for which the Comparative Mythologists have claimed a more august origin. At the same time it is not to be supposed that all associations of men are successful in consolidating themselves into a clan.
A vast number of rudimentary clans are cut off or disqualified early in their formation by one or other of the innumerable calamities which beset primitive mankind, . . . the blood is corrupted, the genealogy is lost, the brethren are scattered abroad to new habits of life and unauthorised means of subsistence, to strange gods and maimed rites. But the broken groups re-form again like a fissiparous species. And as the great majority of these circles fade away in outline, or break up again into atoms before they can consolidate, there goes on a constant decomposition and reproduction of groups at various stages, whence we get at the extraordinary multitude of circles of affinity . . . . which make up the miscellany of Indian society.
The chief secret of a stage of social evolution which is now utterly strange to us, is the condition of mind which I recently dwelt upon in describing ancient Irish society.5 In the mental state which has survived in Central India, ideas are few, and additions to them scanty and slow. The problem which must have obtruded itself on men ever since their existence became the same thing as thought, the question why they had relations and sympathies with one another, is solved by an appeal to kinship. The fundamental assumption is, that all men not united with you in blood are your enemies or your slaves. To associate on terms of equality or friendship with a man who is not in some sense your brother is an unnatural condition; if it be prolonged your neighbour grows into your brother. The modern reason for holding together in social union, that you and your neighbours belong to the same territorial sovereignty, is new and even monstrous in Rajputana and the countries under its influence. The British Government of India indeed recognises nothing but territorial sovereignty as the principle on which men are grouped together. The Maharana of Oodeypore, the Maharajahs of Jeypore and Jodhpore, are only known to the Calcutta Foreign Office as princes ruling over certain defined territories; but to all the native dwellers in Central India they are the semi-sacred chiefs of clans of the purest blood, deriving their patriarchal authority from heroic or divine forefathers. Sir Alfred Lyall gives some striking illustrations of the unpopularity of territorial sovereignty in Central India. It is condoned in the case of the British Government, which delivered the Rajput clans from oppression, and probably saved them from extinction; but the subordination of pure Rajputs to low-caste Mahrattas or Mussulman apostates is resented as a crying injustice. We have all heard what Camerons and Macdonalds thought of being required to obey the Earl of Argyll, not because he was McCallum More, but because he had obtained a grant of feudal superiority from the Scottish king; but the Indian princes who rule over many Rajputs, Scindiah the Slipperbearer and Holkar the Shepherd, are in their eyes less like chiefs of the Campbells than like upstarts sprung from the enslaved tribes who hewed wood and drew water for the great clan of the Western Highlands.
Among the more special causes of the process of tribal aggregation is the convenience of the arrangement to men who regard a more or less strict exogamy as sanctified by usage and religion. The pure Rajput has a prodigious table of prohibited degrees; but he is also surrounded by a circle within which he must marry. He must marry within his caste; he may not marry within his special clan. He has great difficulty in finding wives for his sons; he has still greater difficulty in finding husbands for his daughters. These vexatious rules of intermarriage are extremely mischievous to the pure clans, which are greatly weakened by the necessity for their observance, and are even said to be slowly dying out for lack of reproduction. But to the emigrant Rajput it is a positive advantage to be grouped in the same vague and extensive tribal bond with a number of families or steps whom he has not yet learned to regard as literally of the same blood with himself. He must marry, to borrow the Roman expressions, within his tribe; he may not marry within his gens. When the tribal union is just definite enough to serve as a substitute for caste, and when the various steps included in it are separate from one another—strung together, to use Sir Alfred Lyall’s language, like rings on a curtain rod—the chances for the fertility of the clan are at the highest point, and give it a manifest advantage in the struggle for existence. At the outset, being perhaps little more than a horde of brigands, it may suffer from the scarcity of women within its circle; and at this stage all sorts of fictions are adopted to bring stolen girls within the tribal outline. At the other end of its development it will again suffer, because all the families or septs in the clan will now have come to be looked upon as akin to one another, and debarred from intermarriage. The intermediate stage of which I have been speaking is the most convenient of all.
But the most interesting result of these inquiries into the origin of impure clans is the determination of the principal fiction at work in their formation. It is one which has not by any means died out of the Western world, into which it was reintroduced by the revival of feudal and municipal aristocracy. The odour of vulgarity which it has now contracted makes it, perhaps, hard to understand its primitive importance, since it is neither more nor less than the fiction of a better family and a longer pedigree than one is really entitled to. What was once a force in the West has now become a foible; but in the East, among societies held together by kinship, it is still a force. Lyall’s explanation of the problem with which we started is that, to quote his words, ‘the different stocks congregate by force of circumstances, and tend to form a tribe and clans within a tribe, under the name and within the influence of the most successful groups.’ The Indian mode of bringing the fiction as near as possible to a fact is, I should observe, materially different from any contrivance resorted to in this part of the world. It by no means consists in bold assertion, or getting a false entry introduced into a nobiliaire or peerage. In India a man’s rank is measured, not by his wealth or power, not even by what is written about him, but by the number of things he may or may not do. A family on its promotion practises the most rigid abstinence from particular kinds of food and drink, abstains from all sorts of actions, is scrupulously careful about the marriage of its daughters, and goes daily through a punctilious ceremony of domestic worship. It engages a Brahman chaplain and a Brahman cook; and thus the entire Brahman priesthood of the country will perhaps be led to countenance its pretensions to high-caste extraction. Once taken under the shelter of Brahmanism, the fiction can hardly be distinguished from a fact.
The effect of these remarkable observations is to suggest a theory of the origin and growth of society among the higher races of mankind, which differs in some material respects from any hitherto propounded, though it is much more consistent with some of the current theories than with others. Sir Alfred Lyall follows Mr. Carlyle in saying that ‘the perplexed jungle of primitive society springs from many roots; but the Hero is the taproot from which in a great degree all the rest are nourished and grown.’ A mighty man of valour, with his kinsmen and retainers, founds a clan. Through the very fact of success, this clan is saved from the first from the calamities which arise from an unequal balance of the sexes—the real secret, as I believe, of those unhappy usages which have been saddled by recent theories upon all mankind. It becomes therefore a pure clan, having a genuine pedigree, in which certainty of paternal descent from the famous founder or founders is assumed from the outset. It may also be exogamous, either through the number of female captives which always formed part of its spoil, or simply because the practice of taking its wives from a distance, however this came about, increased its physical vigour and caused it to prevail in the struggle for existence. The formation of such a clan might be a fact by itself, and, so far as we have gone, it would be a plausible objection that the wholesale formation of such clans was highly improbable. But now we see how such a clan acts on the masses of men around it. It starts a process of ferment and crystallisation by which all tribes and assemblages in its neighbourhood or within its influence group themselves in circles as nearly as possible adjusted to the heroic model. The original communities of men may have taken all sorts of forms: in the present state of these inquiries it is impossible not to suspect that no statements can be hazarded on the subject which are at once safe and very general. But evidence of many different kinds suggests that this ‘miscellany’ of primitive society was brought into shape by the influence of dominant types, acting on the faculty of imitation which must have always belonged to mankind. The communities which were destined to civilisation seem to have experienced an attraction which drew them towards one exemplar, the pure clan, generally exogamous among the Aryans, generally endogamous among the Semites, but always believing in purity of paternal descent, and always looking back to some god or hero as the first of the race.
NOTES AND ILLUSTRATIONS.
The passage in the text respecting the ancient groups more or less answering to the still extant House Community has been somewhat altered since it was first printed in the ‘Nineteenth Century.’
It will be seen that, in the present state of these inquiries, I do not accept the account of the origin of the Gens given either by Mr. McLennan or by Mr. Morgan as universally true. I do not, for example, venture to dissent from the view which the Romans themselves took of the history of this peculiar group as known to themselves. What this view was may be inferred from a passage in Varro (‘De Linguâ Latinâ,’ viii. 4) which has been often quoted. The grammarian observes that there is a certain ‘agnation’ and ‘gentility’ among words. All the cases of the noun ‘Æmilius’ are descended from the nominative, just as all the members of the Gens Æmilia, all the Æmilii, are descended from a single original Æmilius. The Romans, therefore, regarded ‘gentility’ as a kinship among men not essentially different from ‘agnation.’ The Agnati were a group of actual or adoptive descendants, through males, from a known and remembered ancestor; the Gentiles were a similar group of descendants from an ancestor long since forgotten. It is true that some learned Romans seem to have perceived or thought that this Gentile relationship was to some extent fictitious; but, on the whole, they figured it to themselves as a form of kinship arising from descent, through males, from a common male ancestor. For reasons given in Chapter VII., I think that the Roman theory of the origin of the Roman Gens was at least probable. I see no reason to doubt that, though some of the gentes may have been fictitious, and others partially fictitious, there was a real core of agnatic consanguinity in most of them from the very first. The probable character of the fictions which clustered round this core may be gathered from the latter part of the preceding chapter. As Sir Alfred Lyall’s description of the mode in which groups simulating true tribal groups are formed is now printed in his ‘Asiatic Studies,’ I might have omitted my abridgment of it; but I retain it, because nothing seems to me to have more affected primitive society, and yet to have been more neglected by those who have theorised on it, than the imitative faculty which man has always possessed and which Sir Alfred Lyall has witnessed in actual employment by barbarous men.
On superficial consideration, we are apt to think that man’s mimetic faculty confines itself to matters of taste and personal habit. But, in truth, there is no successful, or conspicuous, or simply fashionable model which men, in the various stages of their progress, will not endeavour to imitate. The habit of political imitation, which has always been strong, still survives. ‘Make us a King to judge us, like all the nations,’ said the Israelites to Samuel (1 Sam. viii. 5). ‘Give us a Constitution to regulate our liberty, like that of one particular nation,’ is the corresponding modern and Western demand. If anybody is inclined to think that the process of copying models by entire societies is extinct, he should look at the way in which the British Constitution, which was once regarded by men more civilised than the English as an eccentric political oddity, has spread over nearly all Europe in less than seventy years. What Sir Alfred Lyall has shown from his own observations is the activity of this process of imitation in barbarous stages of society. Barbarous men will copy any successful or fashionable social type—a Tribe, a Sept, a Gens, a Village Community, the rules of ‘exogamy’ or ‘endogamy,’ the practice of infanticide or suttee. The agency by which the imitation is carried out is Fiction, sometimes of the most audacious kind, and through it an old order is constantly giving place to a new, and even broken hordes, mere miscellanies of men, are transmuted into definite social forms, which afterwards might seem as if they had all sprung together from roots deep in the Past.
The important lesson is that in sociological investigation it is never possible to discover more than the way in which the Type has been formed. If an institution is once successful, it extends itself through the imitative faculty, which is stronger in barbarous than in civilised man. It follows from this that no universal theory, attempting to account for all social forms by supposing an evolution from within, can possibly be true. A person perfectly ignorant of European history might suppose that the British Constitution and the Belgian Constitution, which are extremely like one another, were produced by analogous courses of development; yet the Belgian Constitution is really the copy of a copy, and the true growth of constitutionalism can only be traced in the history of the English Constitution.
The eminent writers I have named, if I have rightly understood them, are of opinion that the Roman Gens and all similar bodies are derived, without exception, from older groups still to be observed among savages. Among the so-called aborigines of Australia, among the North and South American Indians, and elsewhere, but always among slightly advanced communities, there are found groups of men and women tracing kinship exclusively through the female parent, and not through the male. Wherever they have any tradition of human ancestry, they trace their parentage, according to Mr. Morgan, to a common ancestress, and not to an ancestor. Their most distinct characteristics are that they mark their bodies with some common mark or ‘totem,’ and that the members of the same group never intermarry; and thus, as I have said in the text, they resemble a Sex rather than any other combination of human beings now familiar to us. On the other hand, among several barbarous or semi-barbarous communities we can still observe, and in the ancient history of several civilised or semi-civilised societies we can still detect, another class of groups having a close resemblance to the Roman Gens. They attribute their origin to a single common male ancestor, and they trace kinship through the male parent, real or adoptive, alone. The members of such groups much more frequently intermarry than do the members of the savage group; but occasionally they will not intermarry, at all events as a matter of theory. Such is the Hindu theory with reference to kinsmen and kinswomen belonging to the same Gotra, and there is some faint evidence of a similar feeling once existing in the Roman Gens. Even among savages, examples of groups tracing relationship through males are found intermingled with groups acknowledging female descents only; and Mr. Morgan insists that the first groups are merely the last in a transmuted shape, and that the transformation occurred everywhere, in the societies now civilised as well as in those still savage or barbarous. He several times thus describes the process: ‘Descent in the Gens was changed from the female to the male line,’ giving the name Gens indifferently to both groups.
Whatever the facts may have been, the language of Mr. Morgan seems to me to be open to much objection. One of these two groups did not really succeed the other, but the two co-existed from all time, and were always distinct from one another. We must be careful, in theorising on these subjects, not to confound mental operations with substantive realities. The ‘Agnatic’ Gentile groups, consisting of all the descendants, through males, of a common male ancestor, began to exist in every association of men and women which held together for more than a single generation. They existed because they existed in nature. Similarly the group consisting of the descendants, through women, of a single ancestress still survives, and its outline may still be marked out, if it be worth anybody’s while to trace it. What was new at a certain stage of the history of all or of a portion of the human race must have occurred, not in connection with the Gens, but in connection with the Family. There was always one male parent of each child born, but prevalent habits prevented his being individualised in the mind. At some point of time, some change of surrounding facts enabled paternity, which had always existed, to be mentally contemplated; and further, as a consequence of its recognition, enabled the kinship flowing from common paternity to be mentally contemplated also. As to the new facts which led to this recognition, all that, in my opinion, can be said of them is that they must have been such as again to give free play to an overmastering emotional force. Believing, as I do, that when Paternity reappeared, it reappeared in association with Power and Protection, I require no explanation of the fact that the kinship then recognised was kinship through male descents only.
Mr. Morgan’s application of the same name to the group mentally formed by attending solely to female descents and to the group constituted by looking only at male descents, seems to me unfortunate, because it tends to put out of sight the essential differences between the two. It is hard to see how the savage group can be self-existing, or indeed anything but an organisation for matrimonial purposes spread over a larger tribal community. The men born of the women belonging to it are themselves members of it, but the sons of these men leave it because they belong to the same group as their mothers. But the other group, formed by male descents from males, retains uninterruptedly the flower of its masculine strength, and this strength is constantly reproducing itself. Hence it tends to be a self-existent militant body. The famous exploit of the Fabian Gens at Rome, when they collectively attacked Veii, and were all but extirpated, is thus in itself perfectly credible. No doubt it is said that Australian savages will sometimes travel great distances to join in the quarrels of men having the same ‘totem;’ but these contests between people who have hardly any interests in common can be scarcely more than faction-fights between men wearing different colours. At the same time, I admit that further information of the precise way in which these peculiar organisations affect the practical life of the communities subject to them is greatly needed; and I regret that Mr. Morgan’s death prevented his communicating to me the result of some investigations on the subject which he had promised to make. As to the South Slavonian communities, the actual origin of many of them has been recorded or is otherwise known. With the limitations mentioned in the text, they are composed of the descendants, through males, of a common male ancestor.
I have said above that workers in the new field of investigation opened by the life and usages of savage societies seem to me to be under some temptation to take mental operations for substantive realities. Mr. Morgan, it is well known, considered that the savage habit of grouping relatives in large classes, without reference to degree—of grouping, for instance, a man’s father and his uncles together and calling them all his fathers, or forming his brothers and male cousins in one class and calling them all his brothers—is a relic of a state of society in which the relations of the sexes were very unlike those to which we are accustomed. Earnest, and indeed bitter, controversies have already arisen on this theory of Classificatory Relationship, and ingenious efforts are from time to time made to identify and recover the lost forms of marriage. May I suggest that it is at least worthy of consideration whether all or part of the explanation may not lie in an imperfection of mental grasp on the part of savages? The reader of Dr. Macfarlane’s remarkable ‘Analysis of Relationships of Consanguinity and Affinity’ (‘Journal of Anthropological Institute,’ xii. 1) will require no further proof that the comprehension of a large body of complex relationships demands a prodigious mental effort, even now requiring for its success the aid of a special notation. Some communities have surmounted a part of the difficulty by giving separate names to the nearer relationships, which is what Mr. Morgan calls the Descriptive System; but is there not ground for a suspicion that the savage classification is after all nothing more than a rude and incomplete attempt at the mental contemplation of a tolerably numerous tribal body? Is it more than a conception of complex relationship, reached by looking only at generations and by eliminating the idea of grade or degree? The rough view of a community as consisting of generations is common enough. It appears alike in the Hindu sacerdotal distribution of life into that of the Student, the Householder, and the Ascetic, and in the fine Greek song of the militant Dorians which makes the men boast that they are warriors, the children that they will be warriors some day, and the old men that they were warriors once.
[1 ]See Note A to this chapter, on ‘The Gens.’
[2 ]I learn from correspondence with Professor Bogišić that the Power of the Father is stronger among the Russians than among the South Slavonians, and that among the latter it is stronger near the coast than it is inland. He has heard a young man say to his father, ‘We are not here in the coast country, where fathers are everything and sons nothing.’ In some parts of these countries sons cease to be subject to the father’s power when they marry; but in this case marriage seems to imply severance from the paternal domicil, which is probably the earliest form of the process which the Romans called Emancipation.
[3 ]See Elton, Origins of English History, pp. 184 et seq. Mr. Elton’s work is rich in new information on this subject.
[4 ]Ancient Law, p. 31.
[5 ]Early History of Institutions, Lecture 8.