Translated from the Polish


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After investigation of the relationship of man to fire and domestic animals, it is time to inquire how, in the dawn of civilisation, man felt towards man.

The life of man as a single unit is hampered by his unceasing sexuality so eminently distinguishing him from the animals, the urge to live permanently with a person of the opposite sex. The basis of all associations is the combination of the human couple: sex meets us on the threshold. Manoylov’s researches have shown that this bisexuality obtains throughout nature. A piece of leaf or flower-petal gives chemical reactions like the blood of a man or woman, in accordance with the sex of a sexually divisible plant. In minerals, rhomboid crystals give a male reaction and sestoid a female. Sex is the seasoning of all material being on earth and at the same time (evidently) an innate organising force. Masses which do not crystallise give no sex reaction — sex is the condition of crystallisation.

Sex is thus a highly beneficial factor for human kind. But under one condition — which here does not involve any handicap, since the condition is the same as in the case of every force which may be beneficial to man, of every sense and all manifestations of life, whether within or outside human cognition. It must be controlled, otherwise the beneficial force may become mischievous. All the senses must be controlled, and sex is no exception.

Actually to become aware of a given sense calls for time. A child takes long to learn to look so as to see proper shapes and proportions. Control of hearing takes even longer. Today, around us, there is no lack of people who do not see a drawing, while a “good ear” is a rarity. The sexual instinct is no exception, and man did not at once become aware of it. It has been confirmed that the lowest levels of humanity do not know that coitus efficit gravitatem.142 Only at the stage when man becomes conscious of the consequences can the work of controlling the sexual instinct begin.

It is a fact that at the beginning there was monogamy. It is no longer possible to talk of an alleged original unordered group without exposing oneself to ridicule. Monogamy is the rule among pygmies, representatives of the “oldest culture of the world”, whose existence has been known for almost three and a half thousand years with “a striking identity of physical features”. They are scattered about Central and South Africa, in Southern Asia, in Malacca, the Andaman Islands and the Philippines, and in recent years have been discovered in the New Hebrides and in New Guinea. It has been held that they are physical survivals of the “childhood stage of all mankind”, that every race was at the beginning of low stature; others have taken them for degenerates; but recently conviction has come that there were already small men in paleolithic times. So the oldest culture in the world — and monogamous.143

These pygmies know neither sickle nor knife, are armed only with clubs, bones, at most (not all) with bows.144 The most recent teaching is now almost unanimous that monogamy is typical precisely of truly primitive peoples.145 Islam has not changed this. Those arch-primitives, the Veda in the mountains of Ceylon who do without clothes, without huts, putting up only wind-breaks, living on roots, hunting, occasionally only using the hoe, adopted Islam but did not abandon monogamy. The Senoi on the Malayan peninsula are also monogamous, although they did not know either how to cultivate the earth or domesticate animals.146 The Toala on Celebes and the Negritos in the Philippines are likewise monogamous.147 And on the other hemisphere, monogamy has been established with complete certainty among the “Ge tribes, the oldest ethnic strata of South America”.148 And with their relatively high level of development, the Riff Muslims also normally live monogamously (agricultural implements found among them date from more than two thousand years ago).

Retreat from the school of Bachofen (1861), Lubbock (1870) and L. Morgan (the elder, 1871), that is from the hypothesis of an original sexual promiscuity, was not rapid but stubborn. The school invented a sequence of forms of marriage, from agamy to monogamy, held to be inescapably binding upon all mankind. As late as 1917 Wundt produced yet another order of his own devising, in which although monogamy is both the beginning and end, there are three other forms in the middle. An unnecessary complication, for pre-history knows no order of marriage forms. Thus instead of accepting with Wundt the compromise that “very probably” monogamy prevails in the world,149 let us leave on one side the question of what prevailed when, and assert positively that originally monogamy prevailed everywhere. Yet even in 1927 Brifiault came out with a renewed defence of an original promiscuity.

The argument was sometimes oddly superficial. For example, extremely primitive peoples practised intercourse openly in broad daylight — as a check against illicit relations. This was also held to be the explanation of the information passed from book to book since Cook’s ocean voyages, about a certain people of Oceania (do they still survive?) among whom the women all slept together and the men in a group separately. It was truly a strange logic which was long pleased to regard this as evidence of promiscuity.

In more recent times, Kubary150 looked closely into the matter of Micronesia. In the Palau Islands every adult woman has her own hut. During the day, men are either in their wives’ huts or with the obokul (clan headman), going at night to the communal male hut.151 Monogamy is thus provided with the safeguard already mentioned, but at higher levels this has come to be regarded as not permissible. Among the Semang pygmies wives may only be visited at night.152

Nor is it hard to understand that monogamy must be older than polygamy. The first families must have been endogamous in the only too exact meaning of the term. The proto-family was incestuous. From this developed the legal relation between a man and the children of his sister, with the presumption that the children were his brother’s.153 There is no need at all to make the forced connection with matriarchy which has unnecessarily caused so much confusion. In the ancient period of Iranian religion, marriage with a mother or daughter was regarded as particularly holy.154 Among the Yakuts, survivals of incest .are found to this day.155 Among Walachians incest with a daughter is no rarity, and in the Canary Islands no secret is made of it.156

When the proto-family became endogamous, as marriages took place between distant and more distant relatives within the same kindred, as the kin grew and endogamy spread to very distant, indifferent degrees of relationship — the family remained monogamous. For polygamy demands a. surplus of women, which nature does not supply; such a surplus can arise only from without, and so requires exogamy which, however, only appears later.

Development was in a direction opposed to the inbred family; efforts were very early made to get away from it. With some peoples the form lasted only among the priesthood, for example among the Egyptian pharaohs. Among primitive peoples, deliberate social arrangements were made to prevent inbreeding. The Australians invented divisions unfortunately called in ethnology “classes” out of a mistaken notion that they designated social strata fixed by caste, and for that reason not allowed to inter-marry. The name is entirely inapplicable. In the Polish language these divisions could be called “odrebnia”, seclusion, for it is a question of differentiation. Such primitive peoples are divided into seclusions and only persons of different seclusions are permitted to enter into matrimony, while the child is included in the seclusion from which the mother comes.

There are only two seclusions between Lake Eyre and the lower course of the river Murray. Since daughters remain in the maternal seclusion, marriages between brothers and sisters are avoided, but not between children of two brothers, or of brother and sister, and moreover the union of a father with his own daughter may occur by a chance of fortune. The more developed Kamilar peoples in Queensland and the western part of New South Wales, therefore, carried their precautions further, introducing four seclusions. Here children belong to the seclusions of their grandmothers and maternal grandfathers. Here only a grandfather could have intercourse with a granddaughter. Among the people of Waramunga there are as many as eight seclusions. In Western Australia, on the other hand, a division into three seclusions has been confirmed. In Victoria a different method was chosen, the children being included in the paternal seclusion.157 Seclusions have also been found among the Indians of the Brazilian forests, among the Bororos of the Matto Grosso.158

All these methods of organisation, appearing to many ethnologists and sociologists a puzzle requiring special ingenuity to solve do not differ from the regulations relating to impediments of consanguinity in our canon and civil marriage law. Islam also forbids marriage within the family (with aunts it is expressly forbidden, but no mention is made of the daughters of aunts), and also simultaneously with two sisters.159

Thus we see on a very low level of civilisation resistance to family inbreeding already emerging; but this dislike and the devising of measures against such families may be regarded as evidence that the trend existed at the lowest level. It must have existed until the earliest group (the family) had grown into larger associations (tribe, race) or until exogamy emerged.

Until recently it was thought that no people still practised marriage within the family. But at the Congress of religious ethnology held in Luxemburg in 1929, Professor L. Ehrlich of Ljubljana stated that the Itelms in Kamchatka still permit intercourse with a sister. There are barely 2,800 of them.160 It is the last survival. Peoples who did not condemn incest died out. or at least were unable to develop even in numbers. This part of humanity declined and fell (probably having grown sterile after a time).

As a further indication of the seniority of monogamy, it is a fact that there is no people which does not distinguish between licit and illicit relations, even although the latter are legally tolerated. Everywhere a wife is one thing and a servant, slave or concubine another.

When there is talk of marriage, first place is taken by the question of the descendants. Never the sexual side but the question whose property the children are determines marriage.161 In a large part of the globe children are to this day the property of the father, in the most literal meaning of the term, not excluding the right to sell or to kill. Not among some “savages” but among the Chinese the law is such.162 “A Chinese son is in far greater servitude than a serf.”163 The lot of small Chinese children is such that mission collections for their purchase, are universally familiar. Children are wounded and killed. If a child, particularly a girl, displeases its father, “he kills it immediately or throws it into a canal or bushes”. “Sometimes they bring to Sen-mu-yu (the shelter of Polish Franciscan missionary nuns) injured children, poor victims of quarrels between parents. The merciless father, wanting to break the wife’s resistance, torments the child. He beats, burns, wounds until the mother, driven to extremity, does his will”. “If a child does not please the grandmother, the mother must remove it and then very often the couple give it to the nuns”. In China, and also in Japan, a mother-in-law has great authority over her daughter-in-law. By no means infrequently the nuns find victims like “the boy whose grandmother had cut the flesh on his legs and hips through to the bone; or a girl victim of the vengeance of her father on her mother”.164 The Aztecs stood higher, only permitting the sale of a son into captivity in certain conditions requiring the approval of a judge.165 In this the Chinese are nearer the very primitive Bororos in the Brazilian Matto Grosso.166

In all countries outside Latin civilisation it is accepted that in lean years poor parents may sell their children. It was thus among the Aztecs.167 Here lies the origin of the sale of daughters to the harems of a richer country. The sale of children by their parents has also been noted among the Yakuts.168 On much the greater part of the globe one is personally free in fact only after the death of one’s father. Where slavery exists, a son is his father’s slave. Among Hindus, “a son and a slave may not, according to the law, possess anything on their own.”169 And this is not the exception but the rule with the greater part of mankind.

Various speculations have arisen in connection with the law of property in children. Although the law does not sanction such agreements, in Benares to this day the purchaser of a child pays for his education and in exchange the child later works for its “guardian” for long years.170 The greater part of the future geishas of Japan is educated in the same way.171 In Korea girls bought out of “compassion” are brought up to prostitution practised for the owner’s benefit.

It is known that Roman law also proceeds on the assumption of a property right which undoubtedly originally existed. Later a (fictitious) three-fold sale of the son destroyed the father’s property title. Yet the son never became free either personally or in handling property unless his father so permitted; otherwise the son had to wait for the father’s death. But in a society with a high ethical standard a father did not injure his sons, and the law of property existed in principle only because the Romans never abolished a law, contenting themselves with issuing the new one which served to annul what was regarded as outmoded (in this case the three-fold sale).

In the Babylon of Hammurabi it was permissible to pledge wife and children for debts for three years only, among the Jews for half as long again.172 In Korea, wives and children are still subject to confiscation as part of the property of political offenders or of great criminals condemned to death.173

The right of property over a wife is of later date. The endogamous wife, coming from the same tribe as the husband, was by birth her husband’s equal and so could not become his property. This occurred only under exogamy. But from the very beginnings of all culture children have been the property of the father. This property is jealously guarded because children are a fortune, so that it is out of the question that anybody would deny paternity; in primitive conditions it is more likely to be usurped. The Hottentot also becomes owner of his wife’s earlier, pre-marital children.174 The identification in certain cases of the position of uncle and father was thus based on sound assumptions, for the other father (had he existed) would hardly have agreed to be robbed of a fortune. If nobody applied for possession of a child, it was evidently correct to apply the law of the inbred family. Not only is this not a pointer to matriarchy, it is on the contrary proof that it did not exist, unless one is prepared to argue that woman, as head of the family, would not have wished to possess her own children. Woman never had this right of ownership, and so there never was a matriarchate.175 Thus if the uncle’s right to the children is sometimes found as a survival, it is a survival not of matriarchy but of the inbred family.

Here is man’s oldest property: his own children. It may be that feeling for this property is older than for the fireside and the area covered by it, representing (as discussed above) the oldest claim to real estate. Both these possessions are individual, strictly personal. In this beginning property was personal, not collective. That the genesis of family and property law was simultaneous, the beginnings of both everywhere identical, is of basic importance. There would be no family without feeling for individual property, and what need for personal property if not to satisfy the needs of the family? The ultimate source of the law of individual property is the family. The very close link of the one with the other began at once with original monogamy.

Did the division of labour among the sexes begin at once? It is time the view was discarded that there existed a strict division of occupations between the sexes. For example, the view creeps from textbook to textbook that hunting belonged exclusively to men. the gathering of “roots” to women; that the horse everywhere belonged to the man, the cow to the woman, on the principle that man performed the heavier work and woman the lighter. What do the men of exclusively vegetarian tribes, for example, certain Californians, do in that case?176 Grinding is harder work than the sowing which fell to the men. In the granary of the nations which was ancient Egypt milling was not known, women ground the grain by hand. The discovery of the mill was a blessing for woman. Later, when tasks multiplied, they were sometimes divided according to certain superstitions connected with the physiological characteristics of the sexes,177 but never according to whether they were easier or harder.

From the beginning something else was decisive: charged with bringing up the next generation, woman carried out tasks not requiring her presence too far from home. From the start she could not have managed as a solitary individual. Tending of the fire meant one person keeping unceasing watch over the hearth, and that person could not go in search of sources of livelihood. Nobody would have domesticated either horse or ox by himself. Among the negroes, hoe-agriculture requires three people: one ploughs the ground, a second lights a fire and prepares food, and the third must sit on the field to scare birds from seedbeds and harvest. Older women and children spend whole months in this role of scarecrows. All tasks in and near the house, light and heavy, pleasant or less pleasant, fell without exception to the wife in primitive monogamy. Only exogamy could lead to the division of labour among women of unequal standing.

The family, as a union consisting of parents and children, lasted barely one generation. Among the Yakuts, for example, it did not succeed in being perpetuated in tradition, since “the Yakuts have no exact term to signify a family composed exclusively of a married couple and their children”.178 Ethnology has not investigated the question whether the same fact does not occur elsewhere. In any case it leads to the conclusion that the concept of the family known in historic times did not originate in that primitive family, and is unconnected with it, because its short-lived character doomed it to oblivion in times when tradition was as yet extremely feeble. The concept originates with the next family formation, with the emancipation of the later family from the tribe. Among the Yakuts, this emancipation has not yet taken place,179 but there are apparently the beginnings of the process.

The family proper was lost when the children concluded marriage ties, and the years of the grandchildren began. Of any splitting-up, of the foundation of new firesides at a distance from the original parental hearth, there was no question when human association began. The clan was formed. Young people remained with the older, because otherwise they would have worsened their own conditions of life. The enormous difficulties of the primeval struggle for a livelihood required the concentration of a large number of working hands. Families which did not succeed in expanding into clans died out; they had to die out.

There arose associations of families descending from a common ancestor and remaining under the common authority of this protoplast. As a rule this development was accompanied by joint husbandry, normally too by joint living quarters. Such was the original clan. The inheritance of two, three generations was collected in one place — but was by no means common property. Since children were the property of the father, they plainly could not possess any goods of their own. If this principle obtained in the later centuries of the splendid Roman civilisation, it is not surprising that it obtains today among the Chinese: “Of the son of a Chinese it cannot be said that he possesses anything”.180

The original family rested on this principle at the dawn of all civilisation. The principle that while living with the clan neither grandchild nor great-grandchild could possess property was thus only the practical consequence. The owner of their earnings was the great-grandfather, after his death the grandfather, then the father. Each was the owner of his descendants and their property. This relationship was dissolved only by death — or by going outside the clan in order to found a new clan. The creator of a clan was its owner; and as owner, he had unlimited, despotic power. Let us call him the clan headman. The whole clan and all that belonged to it was originally the private, strictly personal property, of the clan headman. The source of this oldest conception of property is the bond of blood. We see how difficult, or rather quite impossible it is to indicate which of the two is the older — family law or property law, which is the basis and which the superstructure. In fact it is one phenomenon, a kind of dual phenomenon of primitive existence.

All societies pass through the clan system, and some have stuck in it. Among the pygmies so far there exist only “groups formed of up to a dozen or so families with one leader at the top” — in other words clans. There are no authorities higher than clan headmen, nor organisations above the clans, hence the “considerable number” of leaders within even a single tribe.181 In the Brahmin communities of India social organisation also stopped at the clan. In Bengal, families still live in patriarchal fashion, all the married brothers together under the guidance of the father or of the eldest among them.182 In India peoples until lately known as Dravidian and Aryan still farm in clans. These are all monogamous communities (of others there will be mention in the next chapter).

The original clan did not require any clan hierarchy; the sole hierarch was the living protoplast-owner. This state of affairs could not be long-lasting, since it depended on the life of the protoplast and founder of the clan. After his death each of his sons became owner of his branch of the clan. which introduced diversification into family and property law, and so into forms of the clan. And with diversification — differentiation had begun. The comparatively recently founded clan, with its original creator, oldest ancestor and first headman still -living, belongs to the beginnings of all culture.

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