Front Page Titles (by Subject) SECTION I: The effects of poverty and barbarism, with respect to the condition of women. - The Origin of the Distinction of Ranks
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SECTION I: The effects of poverty and barbarism, with respect to the condition of women. - John Millar, The Origin of the Distinction of Ranks 
The Origin of the Distinction of Ranks; or, An Inquiry into the Circumstances which give rise to Influence and Authority in the Different Members of Society, edited and with an Introduction by Aaron Garrett (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2006).
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The effects of poverty and barbarism, with respect to the condition of women.
Of all our passions, it should seem that those which unite the sexes are most easily affected by the peculiar circumstances in which we are placed, and most liable to be influenced by the power of habit and education. Upon this account they exhibit the most wonderful variety of appearances, and, in different ages and countries, have produced the greatest diversity of manners and customs.
The state of mankind in the rudest period of society, is extremely unfavourable to the improvement of these passions. A savage who earns his food by hunting and fishing, or by gathering the spontaneous fruits of the earth, is incapable of attaining any considerable refinement in his pleasures. He finds so much difficulty, and is exposed to so many hardships in procuring mere necessaries, that he has no leisure or encouragement to aim at the luxuries and conveniencies of life. His wants are few, in proportion to the narrowness of his<15> circumstances. With him, the great object is to be able to satisfy his hunger, and, after the utmost exertions of labour and activity, to enjoy the relief of idleness and repose. He has no time for cultivating a correspondence with the other sex, nor for attending to those enjoyments which result from it; and his desires being neither cherished by affluence, nor inflamed by indulgence, are allowed to remain in that moderate state which renders them barely sufficient for the continuation of the species.
The facility with which he may commonly gratify these appetites, is another circumstance by which his situation is peculiarly distinguished. In the most rude and barbarous ages, little or no property can be acquired by particular persons; and, consequently, there are no differences of rank to interrupt the free intercourse of the sexes. The pride of family, as well as the insolence of wealth, is unknown; and there are no distinctions among individuals, but those which arise from their age and experience, from their strength, courage, and other personal qualities. The members of different families, being all nearly upon a level, maintain the most familiar intercourse with one another, and, when impelled by natural instinct, give way to their mutual desires without hesitation or reluctance. They are unacquainted with those refinements which create a strong preference of particular objects, and with those artificial rules of decency and<16> decorum which might lay a restraint upon their conduct.
It cannot be supposed, therefore, that the passions of sex will rise to any considerable height in the breast of a savage. He must have little regard for pleasures which he can purchase at so easy a rate. He meets with no difficulties nor disappointments to enhance the value of his enjoyment, or to rouse and animate him in the pursuit of it. He arrives at the end of his wishes, before they have sufficiently occupied his thoughts, or engaged him in those delightful anticipations of happiness which the imagination is apt to display in the most flattering colours. He is a stranger to that long continued solicitude, those alternate hopes and fears, which agitate and torment the lover, and which, by awakening the sensibility, while they relax the vigour of his mind, render his prevailing inclinations more irresistible.
The phlegmatic disposition of savages, in this particular, has accordingly been often remarked as a distinguishing part of their character. There is good reason to believe that, in the state of simplicity which precedes all cultivation and improvement, the intercourse of the sexes is chiefly regulated by the primary intention of nature; that it is of consequence totally interrupted by the periods of pregnancy; and that the same laws, with respect to the difference of seasons, which govern<17> the constitution of inferior animals, have also an influence upon the desires of the human species.*
It is true, that, even in early ages, some sort of marriage, or permanent union between persons of different sexes, has been almost universally established. But when we examine the nature of this<18> primitive alliance, it appears to have been derived from motives very little connected with those passions which we are at present considering. When a child has been produced by the accidental correspondence of his parents, it is to be expected that, from the influence of natural affection, they will be excited to assist one another in making some provision for his maintenance. For this purpose, they are led to take up their residence together, that they may act in concert with each other, and unite their efforts in the preservation and care of their offspring.
Among inferior animals, we may discern the influence of the same principle in forming an association between individuals of different sexes. The connection indeed, in this case, is commonly of short duration; because the young animal is soon in a condition to provide for its own subsistence. In some of the species of birds, however, the young which are hatched at one time, are frequently incapable of procuring their own food before the mother begins to lay eggs a-new; and the male and female are, therefore, apt to contract a more permanent attachment. To this circumstance we may ascribe the imagined fidelity of the turtle, as well as the poetical honours that have been paid to the gentleness of the dove; an animal which, notwithstanding the character it has so universally acquired, appears remarkable for its peevish and quarrelsome temper. Among common poultry,<19> on the contrary, whose offspring is reared without much assistance even from the dam, the disposition to unite in pairs is scarcely observable.
But the long culture which is necessary in rearing the human species, will generally afford to the parents a second pledge of their commerce, before their assistance can be withdrawn from the former. Their attention, therefore, is extended from one object to another, as long as the mother is capable of child-bearing; and their union is thus continued by the same causes which first gave rise to it. Even after this period, they will naturally be disposed to remain in a society to which they have been so long accustomed: more especially, as by living at the head of a numerous family, they enjoy a degree of ease, respect, and security, of which they would otherwise be deprived, and have reason, in their old age, to expect the assistance and protection of their posterity, under all those diseases and infirmities by which they are rendered incapable of providing for themselves.*
These were in all probability the first inducements to marriage among the rude and barbarous<20> inhabitants of the earth. As it appears to have taken its origin from the accidental and unforeseen exertions of parental affection, we may suppose that it would be commenced without any previous contract between the parties, concerning the terms or duration of their correspondence. Thus, among the Romans, it should seem that the most ancient marriage was formed merely by use; that is, by the parties living constantly together for the space of a year; a period which, in the ordinary course of things, was sufficient to involve them in the care of a family.* It is believed that the early Greeks were accustomed to marry in the same simple manner.† The Kalmuck Tartars have, at present, a similar practice. Among them, it is usual for a young pair to retire, and live together as man and wife for one year; and if, during this time, the woman has produced a child, their marriage is understood to be completed; but if not, they either separate at pleasure, or agree to make another year’s trial.‡ Traces of this primitive custom may still be discovered in the law of Scotland; according to which, a marriage dissolved within a year and day, and without a child, has no legal consequences, but restores the property of either party to the same situation as if no such alliance had ever existed.<21>
Time and experience gradually improved this connection, and discovered the many advantages of which it is productive. The consideration of those advantages, together with the influence of fashion and example, contributed to promote its universal establishment. The anxiety of parties, or of their relations, to avoid those disputes and inconveniencies with which it was frequently attended, made them endeavour, by an express stipulation, to settle the conditions of their union, and produced a solemn and formal celebration of marriage. The utility of this contract, as it makes a regular provision for multiplying the inhabitants of a country, gave rise to a variety of public regulations for promoting the institution in general, for directing its particular forms, and for discouraging the vague and irregular commerce of the sexes.
The marriages, however, of rude people, according to all accounts, are usually contracted without any previous attachment between the parties, and with little regard to the gratification of their mutual passions. A savage is seldom or never determined to marry from the particular inclinations of sex, but commonly enters into that connexion when he arrives at an age, and finds himself in circumstances, which render the acquisition of a family expedient or necessary to his comfortable subsistence. He discovers no preference of any particular woman, but leaves it to his parents, or other relations, to make choice of a person whom<22> it is thought proper that he should marry: He is not even at the trouble of paying her a visit, but allows them to begin and finish the bargain, without concerning himself at all in the matter: If his proposals are rejected, he hears it without the least disturbance; or if he meets with a favourable reception, he is equally unmoved; and the marriage is completed, on both sides, with the most perfect indifference.* <23>
From the extreme insensibility, observable in the character of all savage nations, it is no wonder they should entertain very gross ideas concerning those female virtues which, in a polished nation, are supposed to constitute the honour and dignity of the sex.
The Indians of America think it no stain upon a woman’s character, that she has violated the laws of chastity before marriage; nay, if we can give credit to travellers who have visited that country, a trespass of this kind is a circumstance by which a woman is recommended to a husband; who is apt to value her the more, from the consideration that she has been valued by others, and, on the other hand, thinks that he has sufficient ground for putting her away, when he has reason to suspect that she has been overlooked.*
Young women, among the Lydians, were not accustomed to marry, until they had earned their doweries by prostitution.†
The Babylonians had a public regulation, founded upon their religion, and probably handed down from very remote antiquity, that every woman, of whatever rank, should, once in her life, submit to a public prostitution in the temple of Venus.‡ A<24> religious ceremony of a like nature is said to have been observed in some parts of the Island of Cyprus.*
The infidelity of a married woman is naturally viewed in a different light, and, upon account of the inconveniencies with which it is attended, is often regarded as an offence that deserves to be severely punished. To introduce a spurious offspring into the family; to form a connexion with a stranger, by which the wife is diverted from her proper employments and duties, and by which she may be influenced to embezzle the goods committed to her charge; these are circumstances, that, even in a rude period, are apt to awaken the jealousy of the husband, and to excite his indignation and resentment. There are nations, however, who have disregarded even these considerations, and who have looked upon the strict preservation of conjugal fidelity as a matter of no consequence.
Among the ancient Massagetae, it was usual for persons who resided in the same part of the country to possess their wives in common.† The same custom is said, by Diodorus Siculus, to have taken place among the ancient Troglodites, and the Icthyophagi, inhabiting the coast of the Red Sea.‡
Caesar observes that, in Britain, ten or a dozen persons, chiefly near relations, were accustomed to maintain a community of wives; but that the off-<25>spring of such promiscuous intercourse was reputed to belong to that man who had been first connected with the mother.
Some authors, from a laudable desire of vindicating our forefathers, have called this fact in question, and have been willing to believe, that, in this particular, Caesar was imposed upon by the simple accommodation of those persons who lodged in the same cottage. But it is difficult to conceive that the judicious and well informed conqueror of Gaul, who had been long acquainted with the manners of rude people, and was of a disposition to look upon this as a matter of curiosity, would have made so slight an inquiry, or satisfied himself with so superficial an examination, as might expose him to such a gross deception.*
The custom of lending a wife to a friend, that he might have children by her, appears to have been universal among the ancient Greeks and Romans, and even when these nations had become wealthy and civilized, was openly countenanced by persons of the highest rank and character. It is said to have been recommended, in a particular manner, to the Spartans, by the celebrated institutions of Lycurgus.† <26>
In the country of Kamtschatka, there are several tribes of savages, who esteem it an ordinary mark of politeness, when they entertain a friend, to offer him the enjoyment of their wife or their daughter; and whosoever refuses a civility of this kind, to his guest, is supposed to have intended an affront; and his behaviour is resented accordingly. In Louisiana, upon the coast of Guinea, in several parts of the East Indies, in Pegu, Siam, Cochinchina, and Cambodia, the inhabitants are, in like manner, accustomed, for a small present, to make an offer of their women to all strangers who have occasion to visit the country.* <27>
Among all men who have made any considerable advances towards refinement, sentiments of modesty are connected with the intercourse of the sexes. These sentiments are derived from the very different manner in which individuals are affected, when under the immediate influence of desire, and upon other occasions. After the violence of passion has subsided, and when the mind returns to its usual state of tranquillity, its former emotions appear, in some measure, extravagant, and disproportioned to the object which excited them. But if, with all our partiality, the recollection of our own appetites, in the case here alluded to, be seldom agreeable even to ourselves, we have good reason to conclude that an open display of them will be extremely offensive to others. Those who are not actuated by the same desires must behold our enjoyment with disgust: those who are, must look upon it with jealousy and rivalship. It is to be expected, therefore, that, according as men become sensible of this, they will endeavour to remove such disagreeable appearances. They will be disposed to throw a veil over those pleasures, and to cover from the public eye those thoughts and inclinations, which, they know by experience, would expose them to contempt and aversion. The dictates of nature, in this respect, are inculcated by the force of education; our own feelings are continually gathering strength by a comparison with those of the people around us; and we blush at every deviation from that conceal-<28>ment and reserve which we have been taught to maintain, and which long practice has rendered habitual. Certain rules of decency and decorum with relation to dress, the modes of expression, and general deportment, are thus introduced; and as these contribute, in a high degree, to improve and embellish the commerce of society, they are regarded as peculiarly indispensible to that sex, in which, for obvious reasons, the greatest delicacy and propriety is required.
But mere savages are little acquainted with such refinements. Their situation and manner of life prevent them, either from considering the intercourse of the sexes as an object of importance, or from attending to those circumstances which might suggest the propriety of concealing it. Conscious of nothing blameable in that instinct which nature has bestowed upon them, they are not ashamed of its ordinary gratifications; and they effect no disguise, as to this particular, either in their words or in their actions.
From the account given by Herodotus of the Massagetae, it appears that those barbarians were strangers to reserve or modesty in the commerce of the sexes.* The same circumstance is mentioned by Caesar, in describing the ancient Germans; a people who had made some improvements<29> in their manner of life.* The form of courtship among the Hottentots, by which the lover is permitted to overcome the reluctance of his mistress, may be considered as a plain indication of similar manners, and exhibits a striking picture of primitive rudeness and simplicity.†
When Mr. Banks was in the island of Otaheite, in 1769, he received a visit from some ladies, who made him a present of cloth, attended with very uncommon ceremonies, of which the following account is published by Dr. Hawkesworth. “There were nine pieces; and having laid three pieces one upon another, the foremost of the women, who seemed to be the principal, and who was called Oorattooa, stepped upon them, and taking up her garments all round her to the waist, turned about, and with great composure and deliberation, and with an air of perfect innocence and simplicity, three times: when this was done, she dropped the veil, and stepping off the cloth, three more pieces were laid on, and she repeated the ceremony: then stepping off as before, the last three were laid on, and the ceremony was repeated in the same manner the third time.”‡ <30>
Though the inhabitants of that country are, almost without labour, supplied with great plenty of food, and may therefore be supposed more addicted to pleasure than is usual among savages in a colder climate, yet they appear to have no such differences of wealth as might restrain the free indulgence of their appetites, and by that means produce a degree of refinement in their passions.
Upon the discovery of the new world by Columbus, the natives appeared to have no idea of clothing as a matter of decency; for, though the men made use of a garment, the women, it is said had not the least covering.* The nakedness, however, of these Indians, when authorised by custom, had probably no more tendency to promote debauchery than similar circumstances can be supposed to have upon inferior animals. Rude nations are usually<31> distinguished by greater freedom and plainness of behaviour, according as they are farther removed from luxury and intemperance.
In the Odyssey, when Telemachus arrives at Pylos, he is stripped naked, bathed, and annointed by the king’s daughter.
A remarkable instance of this plainness and simplicity occurs in the behaviour of Ruth to Boaz her kinsman.
“And when Boaz had eaten and drunk, and his heart was merry, he went to lie down at the end of the heap of corn: and she came softly, and uncovered his feet and laid her down.
“And it came to pass at midnight, that the man was afraid, and turned himself: and behold a woman lay at his feet.
“And he said, Who art thou? And she answered, I am Ruth, thine handmaid: spread therefore thy skirt over thine handmaid, for thou art a near kinsman.”‡ <32>
The influence of such manners must be extremely unfavourable to the rank and dignity of the women; who are deprived of that consideration and respect which, in a polished nation, they are accustomed to derive from the passion between the sexes. It is, at the same time, impossible, in a rude age, that they should procure esteem by such talents as they are capable of acquiring, or by their usefulness in such employments as they have any occasion to exercise.
Among those who are almost continually employed in war, or in hunting, and who, by their manner of life, are exposed to numberless hardships and dangers, activity, strength, courage, and military skill, are the chief accomplishments that are held in high estimation. These accomplishments, which in all ages excite a degree of admiration, are, in a barbarous country, the principal sources of rank and dignity; as they are most immediately useful to the people in procuring food, and in providing for their personal safety, the two great objects which they have constantly in view.1 When the members of a rude tribe return from an expedition, every man is respected in proportion to the actions which he has performed; and that person is distinguished at the feast who has been so fortunate as to signalize himself in the field. The various incidents of the battle, or of the chase, occupy their thoughts, and become an interesting subject of conversation. Those who are old take<33> pleasure in relating the deeds of former times, by which their own reputation has been established, and in communicating to the young those observations which they have treasured up, or those rules of conduct which appear most worthy of attention. The son, when he goes out to battle, is armed with the sword of his fathers, and, when he calls to mind the renown which they have acquired, is excited to a noble emulation of their achievements.
The inferiority of the women, in this respect, may be easily imagined. From their situation, indeed, they naturally acquire a degree of firmness and intrepidity which appears surprising to persons only acquainted with the manners of polished nations. It is usual for them to accompany the men in their expeditions either for hunting or for war; and it sometimes happens that individuals are excited, by the general spirit of the times, to engage in battle, so as even to gain a reputation by their exploits. But whatever may have happened in some extraordinary cases, we may venture to conclude, that the female character is by no means suited to martial employments; and that, in barbarous, as well as in refined periods, the women are, for the most part, incapable of rivaling the other sex in point of strength and courage. Their attention, therefore, is generally limited to an humbler province. It falls upon them to manage all the inferior concerns of the household, and to perform such domestic offices as the particular circumstances of the people<34> have introduced: offices which, however useful, yet requiring little dexterity or skill, and being attended with no exertion of splendid talents, are naturally regarded as mean and servile, and unworthy to engage the attention of persons who command respect by their military accomplishments.
From these observations we may form an idea of the state and condition of the women in the ages most remote from improvement. Having little attention paid them, either upon account of those pleasures to which they are subservient, or of those occupations which they are qualified to exercise, they are degraded below the other sex, and reduced under that authority which the strong acquire over the weak: an authority, which, in early periods, is subject to no limitation from the government, and is therefore exerted with a degree of harshness and severity suited to the dispositions of the people.
We accordingly find that, in those periods, the women of a family are usually treated as the servants or slaves of the men.* Nothing can exceed the dependence and subjection in which they are kept, or the toil and drudgery which they are obliged to undergo. They are forced to labour without intermission in digging roots, in drawing water, in carrying wood, in milking the cattle, in dressing the victuals, in rearing the children, and<35> in those other kinds of work which their situation has taught them to perform. The husband, when he is not engaged in some warlike exercise, indulges himself in idleness, and devolves upon his wife the whole burden of his domestic affairs. He disdains to assist her in these employments: she sleeps in a different bed, and is seldom permitted to have any conversation or correspondence with him.*
Among the negroes upon the slave-coast, the wife is never allowed to appear before the husband, or to receive any thing from his hands, without putting herself into a kneeling posture.†
In the empire of Congo, and in the greater part of those nations which inhabit the southern coast of Africa, the women of a family are seldom allowed to eat with the men. The husband sits alone at table, and the wife commonly stands at his back, to guard him from the flies, to serve him with his victuals, or to furnish him with his pipe and his tobacco. After he has finished his meal, she is allowed to eat what remains; but without sitting down, which it seems would be inconsistent with the inferiority and submission that is thought suitable to her sex.‡ <36> When a Hottentot and his wife have come into the service of a European, and are entertained in the same house, the master is under the necessity of allotting to each of them a distinct portion of victuals; which, out of regard to the general usage of their country, they always devour at a distance from one another.§
In the account lately given by Commodore Byron of the Indians of South America, we are told, that “the men exercise a most despotic authority over their wives, whom they consider in the same view they do any other part of their property; and dispose of them accordingly: even their common treatment of them is cruel; for though the toil and hazard of procuring food lies entirely upon the women, yet they are not suffered to touch any part of it till the husband is satisfied; and then he assigns them their portion, which is generally very scanty, and such as he has not a stomach for himself.” The same author informs us, that he observed a like arbitrary behaviour in many other nations of savages with whom he has since become acquainted.*
From the servile condition of the women in barbarous countries, they are rendered in a great measure incapable of property, and are supposed<37> to have no share in the estate of that particular family to which they belong. Whatever has been acquired by their labour is under the sole administration and disposal of those male relations and friends, by whom they are protected, and from whom they receive a precarious subsistence. Upon the death of a proprietor, his estate is continued in the possession of his sons, or transmitted to his other male relations; and his daughters are so far from being entitled to a share of the succession, that they are even considered as a part of the inheritance, which the heir has the power of managing at pleasure.
At the Cape of Good Hope, in the kingdom of Benin, and in general upon the whole southern and western coast of Africa, no female is ever admitted to the succession of any estate, either real or personal.†
The same custom is said to be observed among the Tartars; and there is some reason to believe that it has been anciently established among all the inhabitants of Chaldea and Arabia.‡
From the famous decision of this point related by Moses, it appears that, in his time, the succession of females had been without a precedent; and,<38> by his appointment, they were only permitted to inherit upon a failure of males of the same degree.
“Then came the daughters of Zelophehad—and they stood before Moses, and before Eleazar the priest, and before the princes, and all the congregation, by the door of the tabernacle of the congregation, saying,
“ ‘Our father died in the wilderness, and he was not in the company of them that gathered themselves together against the Lord in the company of Korah; but died in his own sin, and had no sons.
“ ‘Why should the name of our father be done away from among his family, because he hath no son? Give unto us therefore a possession among the brethren of our father.’
“And Moses brought their cause before the Lord.
“And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying,
“ ‘The daughters of Zelophehad speak right; thou shalt surely give them a possession of an inheritance among their father’s brethren, and thou shalt cause the inheritance of their father to pass unto them.
“ ‘And thou shalt speak unto the children of Israel, saying, If a man die, and have no son, then ye shall cause his inheritance to pass unto his daughter.’ ”* <39>
In all those German nations which over-ran and subdued the different provinces of the Roman empire, the same notions were entertained concerning the inferiority of the woman; and the same rules of succession were naturally introduced. It is probable that, according to the original customs which prevailed in all these nations, daughters, and all other female relations, were entirely excluded from the right of inheritance; but that afterwards, when the increase of opulence and luxury had raised them to higher consideration, they were admitted to succeed after the males of the same degree.†
In a country where the women are universally regarded as the slaves of the other sex, it is natural to expect that they should be bought and sold, like any other species of property. To marry a wife must there be the same thing as to purchase a female servant, who is to be intrusted, under the husband’s direction, with a great part of the domestic economy.
Thus, in all savage nations, whether in Asia, Africa, or America, the wife is commonly bought by the husband from the father, or those other relations who have an authority over her; and the conclusion of a bargain of this nature, together with the payment of the price, has therefore become the most usual form or solemnity in the celebration of their marriages.* <40>
This appears to be the real foundation of what is related by historians; that in some parts of the world it is usual for the husband to give a dowery to the wife or her relations, instead of the wife bringing along with her a dowery to the husband.
“Dotem non uxor marito, sed uxori maritus offert,” is the expression used by Tacitus in speaking of this practice among the ancient German nations.†
When Shechem wanted to marry the daughter of Jacob—“He said unto her father, and unto her brethren, Let me find grace in your eyes, and what ye shall say unto me I will give.
“Ask me never so much dowery and gift, And I will give according as ye shall say unto me: but give me the damsel to wife.”‡
When David married the daughter of king<41> Saul, he was obliged to pay a dowery of a very singular nature.§
This ancient custom, that the husband should buy his wife from her relations, remains at present among the Chinese; who, notwithstanding their opulence, and their improvement in arts, are still so wonderfully tenacious of the usages introduced in a barbarous period.‖
Sir Thomas Smith takes notice, that, according to the old law of England, “the woman, at the church-door, was given of her father, or some other man of the next of her kin, into the hands of the husband; and he= laid down gold and silver for her upon the book, as though he did buy her.”* In the early history of France we meet with a similar practice; of which there are traces remaining in the present marriage ceremony of that country.†
Upon the same principle, the husband is generally understood to have the power of selling his wife, or of putting her away at pleasure.‡ <42>
It may however be remarked, that this is a privilege, which, from the manners of a rude people, he seldom has reason to exercise. The wife, who is the mother of his children, is generally the most proper person to be employed in the office of rearing and maintaining them. As she advances in years, she is likely to advance in prudence and discretion; a circumstance of too much importance to be counterbalanced by any considerations relating to the appetite between the sexes. Nothing but some extraordinary crime that she has committed, will move the husband to put away so useful a servant, with whom he has long been acquainted, and whose labour, attention, and fidelity, are commonly of more value than all the money she will bring in a market. Divorces are therefore rarely to be met with in the history of early nations.
But though the wife is not apt to incur the settled displeasure of her husband, which might lead him to banish her from the family, she may often experience the sudden and fatal effects of his anger and resentment. When unlimited power is committed to the hands of a savage, it cannot fail, upon many occasions, to be grossly abused. He looks upon her in the same light with his other<43> domestic servants, and expects from her the same implicit obedience to his will. The least opposition kindles his resentment; and, from the natural ferocity of his temper, he is frequently excited to behave with a degree of brutality which, in some cases, may prove the unhappy occasion of her death.
Among the ancient inhabitants of Gaul, the husband exercised the power of life and death over his wives, and treated them with all the severity of an absolute and tyrannical master. In that country, whenever a person of distinction was thought to have died a violent death, his wives lay under the same suspicion of guilt with his other domestic servants; and in order to discover who had committed the crime, they were all subjected to the torture.*
But of all the different branches of power with which in a rude age the husband is usually invested, we meet with the fullest and most complete illustration in the ancient law of the Romans. By that law, a wife was originally considered as, in every respect, the slave of her husband.† She<44> might be sold by him, or she might be put to death by an arbitrary exertion of his authority. From the ceremonies which were used in the more solemn and regular celebration of marriage, it seems probable that, in early times, the wife was purchased with a real price from her relations.‡ She was held incapable of having any estate of her own, and whatever she possessed at the time of her marriage, became the absolute property of her husband.*
It will be thought, perhaps, a mortifying picture that is here presented to us, when we contemplate the barbarous treatment of the female sex in early times, and the rude state of those passions which may be considered as the origin of society. But this rudeness and barbarism, so universally discovered in the early inhabitants of the world, is not unsuitable to the mean condition in which they are placed, and to the numberless hardships and difficulties which they are obliged to encounter. When men are in danger of perishing for hunger; when they are exerting their utmost efforts to procure the bare necessaries of life; when they are unable to shelter themselves from beasts of prey, or from enemies of their own kind, no less ferocious; their constitution would surely be ill adapt-<45>ed to their circumstances, were they endowed with a refined taste of pleasure, and capable of feeling the delicate distresses and enjoyments of love, accompanied with all those elegant sentiments, which, in a civilized and enlightened age, are naturally derived from that passion. Dispositions of this nature would be altogether misplaced in the breast of a savage: They would even be exceedingly hurtful, by turning his attention from real wants, to the pursuit of imaginary, and what, in his situation, must be accounted fantastical gratifications. Neither will it escape observation, that this refinement would be totally inconsistent with the other parts of his character. Nations who have so little regard to property as to live in the continual exercise of theft and rapine; who are so destitute of humanity, as, in cold blood, to put their captives to death with the most excruciating tortures; who have the shocking barbarity to feed upon their fellow-creatures, a practice rarely to be found among the fiercest and most rapacious of the brute animals; such nations, it is evident, would entirely depart from their ordinary habits and principles of action, were they to display much tenderness or benevolence, in consequence of that blind appetite which unites the sexes. It ought, at the same time to be remembered, that, how poor and wretched soever the aspect of human nature in this early state, it contains the seeds of improvement,<46> which, by long care and culture, are capable of being brought to maturity; so that the lower its primitive condition, it requires the greater exertions of labour and activity, and calls for a more extensive operation of those wonderful powers and faculties, which, in a gradual progression from such rude beginnings, have led to the noblest discoveries in art or science, and to the most exalted refinement of taste and manners.<47>
[* ]A late ingenious author imagines that this coldness of constitution is peculiar to the natives of America; and he accounts for it, in a most whimsical manner, from the moisture of the climate, by which the inhabitants of that country are, in his opinion, rendered inferior, both in mind and body, to those of the old world. [[Cornelius De Pauw. [Recherches philosophiques sur les Americains.] I:23 De Pauw, a diplomat in the court of Frederick the Great, argued in this widely read work that America was an enervated and degenerate continent due to its climate. But though it must, perhaps, be admitted that particular climates have some influence upon the passions of sex, yet, in most parts of the world, the character of savages, in this respect, exhibits a remarkable uniformity. [See an account of the Samoiedes, histoire generale des voyages, tome 18. p. 509, 510.—Of the inhabitants of Kamtschatka, ibid. tome 19. liv. 2. chap. 4.]
[* ]It seems unnecessary to observe, that what is here said with regard to marriage, together with many other Remarks which follow concerning the manners of early nations, can only be applied to those who had lost all knowledge of the original institutions, which, as the sacred scriptures inform us, were communicated to mankind by an extraordinary revelation from heaven.
[* ]Cicero pro Flacco [[XXVII § 84, Heinec. antiq. Roman. Johann Gottlieb Heineccius, Antiquitatum Romanarum Jurisprudentiam, I.X.14.]]
[† ]See Brisson. de vet. rit. nuptiar. [[Barnábe Brisson, “De Veteri Ritu Nuptiarum et Jure Connubiorum,” in Opera Minorae Varii Argumenta, 304.]]
[‡ ]Travels through the Russian empire and Tartary, by John Cook, M. D. vol. I. chap.= 56.
[* ]Lafitau, moeurs des sauvages Ameriquains, 4to. tom. 1. pag. 564. Histoire generale des voyages, tom. 3. liv. 7. cap. 13. §. 1. Ibid. tom. 6. liv. 14. cap. 3. §. 4. Travels of the Jesuits, vol. 2. p. 446.
[* ]Ulloa’s voyage to South America. [[George Juan and Antonio de Ulloa, A Voyage to South America, VI.v (I:429).]]
[† ]Herodot. lib. 1. [[Herodotus History I.93.]]
[‡ ]Strabo, lib. 16. [[Geography XVI.20.—See also Herodotus, lib. 1. who describes the form of this wonderful institution with his usual simplicity. I.199: “The ugliest of the customs among the Babylonians is this: every woman who lives in that country must once in her lifetime go to the temple of Aphrodite and sit there and be lain with by a strange man. Many of the women who are too proud to mix with the others—such, for instance, as are uplifted by the wealth they have—ride to the temple in covered carriages drawn by teams and stay there then with a great mass of attendants following them. But most of the women do thus: they sit in the sacred precinct of Aphrodite with a garland round their heads made of string. There is constant coming and going, and there are roped-off passages running through the crowds of women in every direction, through which the strangers walk and take their pick. When once a woman has taken her seat there, she may not go home again until one of the strangers throws a piece of silver into her lap and lies with her, outside the temple. As he throws a coin, the man says, ‘I summon you in the name of Mylitta.’ (The Assyrians call Aphrodite Mylitta.) The greatness of the coin may be what it may, for it is not lawful to reject it, since this money, once it is thrown, becomes sacred. The woman must follow the first man who throws the money into her lap and may reject none. Once she has lain with him, she has fulfilled her obligation to the goddess and gets gone to her home. From that time forth you cannot give her any sum large enough to get her. Those women who have attained to great beauty and height depart quickly enough, but those who are ugly abide there a great while, being unable to fulfil the law. Some, indeed, stay there as much as three or four years.” David Grene, trans.]]
[* ]Herodot. lib. 1. [[Ibid.]]
[† ]Herodot. Ibid. [[I.216.]]
[‡ ]Diod. Sicul. hist. lib. 1. [[Actually III.32.]]
[* ]“Uxores habent deni duodenique inter se communes, et maxime fratres cum fratribus, parentesque cum liberis: sed si qui sunt ex his nati, eorum habentur liberi, quo primum virgo quaeque deducta est.” [[“Groups of ten or twelve men have wives together in common, and particularly brothers along with brothers, and fathers with sons; but the children born of the unions are reckoned to belong to the particular house to which the maiden was first conducted.” Edwards, trans. Caesar de bell. Gall. lib. 5. §. 14.]]
[† ]Plutarch. in vita Lycurg. [[XV .
[* ][[Krasheninnikov, History of Kamtschatka. p. 224.—Dampier’s travels. William Dampier, Voyage around the World, chap. XIV, p. 395.]]
[* ]Της γαρ επιθυμὴσει γυναικός Μασσαγέτης ανηρ, τον Φαρετρεωνα απικρεμασας προς της ἁμαξας, μίσγεται αδεως. Herodot. B. I. [[“When a man of the Massagetae desires a woman, he hangs his quiver on the front of her wagon and lies with her, fearlessly.” I.216. David Grene, trans.]]
[* ]Cujus rei nulla est occultatio; quod et promiscue in fluminibus perluuntur, et pellibus, aut parvis renonum tegumentis utuntur, magna corporis parte nuda. Caes. de bell. Gall. lib. 6. [[“And there is no secrecy in the matter, for both sexes bathe in the river and wear skins or small cloaks of reindeer hide, leaving great part of the body bare.” Edwards, trans., VI.21.]]
[† ][[Peter Kolb Kolben. present state of Cape of Good Hope, ch. 13.]]
[‡ ][[Hawkesworth, ed., Voyages for making discoveries in the Southern Hemisphere, vol. 2. chap. 12.
[* ]Columbus’s voyages. Herrera says, that both men and women were perfectly naked. [[Herrera y Tordesillas, The General History of … America, I:48; A Curious Collection, 13.]]
[† ]Pope’s translation of the Odyssey, b. 4. l. 58.
[‡ ]Ruth, chap. iii. ver. 7, 8, 9.
[1. ]“It is indeed observable, that, among all uncultivated nations, who have not as yet had full experience of the advantages attending beneficence, justice, and the social virtues, courage is the predominant excellence; what is most celebrated by poets, recommended by parents and instructors, and admired by the public in general” (Hume, Enquiry Concerning the Principles of Morals, VII:255).
[* ]Εν δε τοι̑ς βαρβάροις τὸ θη̑λυ και δουλον τὴν ἀυτὴν ἐχεὶ τάξιν. Aristot. Polit. lib. 1. cap. 2. [[“Yet among barbarians the female and the slave have the same rank” (Aristotle, Politics, Rackham, trans., I.1 [1252b1]).]]
[* ]See Kolben’s voyage to the Cape of Good Hope. [[XIV.3, 161.—Histoire generale des voyages, tom. 5. liv. 14. chap. 3 §. 4. Ibid. tom. 3. liv. 7. chap. 13. §. 1. Ibid. tom. 4. liv. 10. ch. 4.—Sale’s voyage to North America. Robert Cavelier, sieur de la Salle (1643–87).]]
[† ]Hist. gener. des voy. tom. 4. liv. 10. ch. 3.
[‡ ]Histoire generale des voyages, tom. 4. liv. 13. ch. 3. §. 2. Ibid. tom. 3. liv. 7. chap. 13. §. 1.
[§ ]Kolben’s voyage to the Cape of Good Hope, chap. 15. §. 6.
[* ]Byron’s Narrative [[143.]]
[† ]See Kolben’s voyage. [[XIII.7, pp. 156–57.—Modern Universal History, vol. 16. p. 374. Ibid. vol. 17.—Hist. gen. des voy. tom. 3. 4.]]
[‡ ]Histoire generale des voyages, tom. 9. liv. 4. chap. 2. §. 6. page 318.—Vide Perizon de leg. Vocon. [[Jacobus Perizonius, “Dissertation II. De Lege Voconia Feminarumque apud Veteres Hereditatibus,” p. 133 in Ant. Fil. Dissertationes Septem.]]
[* ]Numbers, chap. xxvii. ver. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8.
[† ]Tacit. de mor. German [[20.3.]]
[* ]This practice obtains in the kingdom of Pegu. See Modern Universal Hist. vol. 7 [[pp. 52–53.—In Siberia. See professor Gmelin’s travels into Siberia, vol. 1. p. 29.— Among the Tartars. Dr. Cooke’s travels through the Russian empire, &c. vol. 2. chap. 21. Hist. gen. des voy. tom. 9.—Among the negroes on the coast of Guinea. Ibid. tom. 4.—Among the Arabs. See D’Arvieux travels. d’Arvieux, The Travels of the Chevalier d’Arvieux, 230.
[† ]Tacit. de mor. German. [[18.2: “The wife does not bring a dowry to the husband, but the husband offers a dowry to the wife.”]]
[‡ ]Genesis, chap. xxiv. ver. 11, 12.
[§ ]1 Samuel, chap. xviii. ver. 25.
[‖ ]See P. Le Compte’s Memoirs of China [[p. 267.]]
[* ]The Common-wealth of England, b. 3. chap. 8. [[Sir Thomas Smith (1513–77), classicist, Regius Professor of Law at Cambridge, secretary of state under Queen Elizabeth. De Republica Anglorum (1583) was the most important Tudor account of the English Constitution and was used extensively by Millar in volume II of the Historical View.]]
[† ]“Le futur epoux devoit offrir une somme aux parens de la fille.” M. L’Abbe Velly Hist. de France, tom. 1. 8vo, p. 268. [[“The future groom had to give a sum of money to the parents of the girl.”]]
[‡ ]This is the case in the kingdom of Congo. Modern Univer. Hist. [[XVI:406.—Upon the slave coast. Hist. gen. des voy. Among the Samoiedes, Le Brun. Observ. on Russia Le Brun is included in Weber, The Present State of Russia, II:382.—The Ostiacks. Present state of Russia. pub. 1722 II:72.—At Bantam—and in the island of Banda. Recueil des voyages qui ont servi a l’etablissement de la comp. des Indes Orient. dans les Païs Bas, 8vo, tom. 2. p. 41. p. 216.]]
[* ]“Viri in uxores, sicuti in liberos, vitae necisque habent potestatem; et quum paterfamilias illustriore loco natus decessit, ejus propinqui conveniunt, et de morte, si res in suspicionem venit, de uxoribus in servilem modum quaestionem habent.” Caes. de bell. Gall. lib. 6. §. 18. [[Actually VI.19: “Men have the power of life and death over their wives, as over their children; and when the father of a house, who is of distinguished birth, has died, his relatives assemble, they make inquisition of his wives as they would of slaves.” Edwards, trans.]]
[† ]She was said “conveniri in manum mariti,” [[“to come into the power of her husband”; cf. table VI, fragment 4 and was precisely in the same condition with a “filia-familias.” A daughter under the power of the father.]]
[‡ ]The ceremonies of “coemptio.” [[The ceremony of coemptio—a kind of Roman marriage in which the husband gained a sort of property ownership (manus) of the wife and from which the wife needed to be emancipated in order to change this status—was a simulated purchase. Coemptio was distinguished from two other kinds of marriage in which a woman was transferred from the manus of her father to her husband: confarreatio, which involved an elaborate ceremony but no bridal purchase, and usus, which could be invoked after a year of cohabitation.]]
[* ]Vide Heinec. antiq. Roman. [[I.x.6.]]