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Title: The Origin of the Family Private Property and the State

Author: Frederick Engels

Translator: Ernest Untermann

Release Date: July 8, 2010 [EBook #33111]

Language: English

Character set encoding: ISO-8859-1


Produced by Fritz Ohrenschall, Martin Pettit and the Online
Distributed Proofreading Team at





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Translator's Preface                       5

Author's Prefaces                       9-12

Prehistoric Stages                        27

The Family                                35

The Iroquois Gens                        102

The Grecian Gens                         120

Origin of the Attic State                131

Gens and State in Rome                   145

The Gens Among Celts and Germans         158

The Rise of the State Among Germans      176


"An eternal being created human society as it is to-day, and submission
to 'superiors' and 'authority' is imposed on the 'lower' classes by
divine will." This suggestion, coming from pulpit, platform and press,
has hypnotized the minds of men and proves to be one of the strongest
pillars of exploitation. Scientific investigation has revealed long ago
that human society is not cast in a stereotyped mould. As organic life
on earth assumes different shapes, the result of a succession of
chemical changes, so the group life of human beings develops different
social institutions as a result of increasing control over environment,
especially of production of food, clothing and shelter. Such is the
message which the works of men like Bachofen, Morgan, Marx, Darwin, and
others, brought to the human race. But this message never reached the
great mass of humanity. In the United States the names of these men are
practically unknown. Their books are either out of print, as is the case
with the fundamental works of Morgan, or they are not translated into
English. Only a few of them are accessible to a few individuals on the
dusty shelves of some public libraries. Their message is dangerous to
the existing order, and it will not do to give it publicity at a time
when further intellectual progress of large bodies of men means the doom
of the ruling class. The capitalist system has progressed so far, that
all farther progress must bring danger to it and to those who are
supreme through it.

But the forces, which have brought about the present social order,
continue their work regardless of the wishes of a few exploiters. A
comprehensive work summarizing our present knowledge of the development
of social institutions is, therefore, a timely contribution to socialist
propaganda. In order to meet the requirements of socialists, such a
summary must be written by a socialist. All the scientists who devoted
themselves to the study of primeval society belonged to the privileged
classes, and even the most radical of them, Lewis Morgan, was prevented
by his environment from pointing out the one fact, the recognition of
which distinguishes the socialist position from all others--THE

The strongest allusion to this fact is found in the following passage of
"Ancient Society": "Property and office were the foundations upon which
aristocracy planted itself. Whether this principle shall live or die has
been one of the great problems with which modern society has been
engaged.... As a question between equal rights and unequal rights,
between equal laws and unequal laws, between the rights of wealth, of
rank and of official position, and the power of justice and
intelligence, there can be little doubt of the ultimate result" (page

Yet Morgan held that "several thousand years have passed away without
the overthrow of the privileged classes, excepting in the United
States." But in the days of the trusts, of government by injunction, of
sets of 400 with all the arrogance and exclusiveness of European
nobility, of aristocratic branches of the Daughters of the Revolution,
and other gifts of capitalist development, the modern American
workingman will hardly share Morgan's optimistic view that there are no
privileged classes in the United States. It must be admitted, however,
that to this day Morgan's work is the most fundamental and exhaustive
of any written on the subject of ancient social development.
Westermarck's "History of Human Marriage" treats the question mainly
from the standpoint of Ethnology and Natural History. As a scientific
treatise it is entirely inadequate, being simply a compilation of data
from all parts of the world, arranged without the understanding of
gentile organizations or of the materialistic conception of history, and
used for wild speculations. Kovalevsky's argument turns on the
proposition that the patriarchal household is a typical stage of
society, intermediate between the matriarchal and monogamic family.

None of these men could discuss the matter from the proletarian point of
view. For in order to do this, it is necessary to descend from the hills
of class assumption into the valley of proletarian class-consciousness.
This consciousness and the socialist mind are born together. The key to
the philosophy of capitalism is the philosophy of socialism. With the
rays of this searchlight, Engels exposed the pious "deceivers," property
and the state, and their "lofty" ideal, covetousness. And the monogamic
family, so far from being a divinely instituted "union of souls," is
seen to be the product of a series of material and, in the last
analysis, of the most sordid motives. But the ethics of property are
worthy of a system of production that, in its final stage, shuts the
overwhelming mass of longing humanity out from the happiness of home and
family life, from all evolution to a higher individuality, and even
drives progress back and forces millions of human beings into
irrevocable degeneration.

The desire for a higher life cannot awake in a man, until he is
thoroughly convinced that his present life is ugly, low, and capable of
improvement by himself. The present little volume is especially adapted
to assist the exploited of both sexes in recognizing the actual causes
which brought about their present condition. By opening the eyes of the
deluded throng and reducing the vaporings of their ignorant or selfish
would-be leaders in politics and education to sober reality, it will
show the way out of the darkness and mazes of slavish traditions into
the light and freedom of a fuller life on earth.

These are the reasons for introducing this little volume to English
speaking readers. Without any further apology, we leave them to its
perusal and to their own conclusions.


Chicago, August, 1902.


The following chapters are, in a certain sense, executing a bequest. It
was no less a man than Karl Marx who had reserved to himself the
privilege of displaying the results of Morgan's investigations in
connection with his own materialistic conception of history--which I
might call ours within certain limits. He wished thus to elucidate the
full meaning of this conception. For in America, Morgan had, in a
manner, discovered anew the materialistic conception of history,
originated by Marx forty years ago. In comparing barbarism and
civilization, he had arrived, in the main, at the same results as Marx.
And just as "Capital" was zealously plagiarized and persistently passed
over in silence by the professional economists in Germany, so Morgan's
"Ancient Society"[1] was treated by the spokesmen of "prehistoric"
science in England.

My work can offer only a meager substitute for that which my departed
friend was not destined to accomplish. But in his copious extracts from
Morgan, I have critical notes which I herewith reproduce as fully as

According to the materialistic conception, the decisive element of
history is pre-eminently the production and reproduction of life and its
material requirements. This implies, on the one hand, the production of
the means of existence (food, clothing, shelter and the necessary
tools); on the other hand, the generation of children, the propagation
of the species. The social institutions, under which the people of a
certain historical period and of a certain country are living, are
dependent on these two forms of production; partly on the development of
labor, partly on that of the family. The less labor is developed, and
the less abundant the quantity of its production and, therefore, the
wealth of society, the more society is seen to be under the domination
of sexual ties. However, under this formation based on sexual ties, the
productivity of labor is developed more and more. At the same time,
private property and exchange, distinctions of wealth, exploitation of
the labor power of others and, by this agency, the foundation of class
antagonism, are formed. These new elements of society strive in the
course of time to adapt the old state of society to the new conditions,
until the impossibility of harmonizing these two at last leads to a
complete revolution. The old form of society founded on sexual relations
is abolished in the clash with the recently developed social classes. A
new society steps into being, crystallized into the state. The units of
the latter are no longer sexual, but local groups; a society in which
family relations are entirely subordinated to property relations,
thereby freely developing those class antagonisms and class struggles
that make up the contents of all written history up to the present time.

Morgan deserves great credit for rediscovering and re-establishing in
its main outlines this foundation of our written history, and of finding
in the sexual organizations of the North American Indians the key that
opens all the unfathomable riddles of most ancient Greek, Roman and
German history. His book is not the work of a short day. For more than
forty years he grappled with the subject, until he mastered it fully.
Therefore his work is one of the few epochal publications of our time.

In the following demonstrations, the reader will, on the whole, easily
distinguish what originated with Morgan and what was added by myself. In
the historical sections on Greece and Rome, I have not limited myself to
Morgan's material, but have added as much as I could supply. The
sections on Celts and Germans essentially belong to me. Morgan had only
sources of minor quality at his disposal, and for German
conditions--aside from Tacitus--only the worthless, unbridled
falsifications of Freeman. The economic deductions, sufficient for
Morgan's purpose, but wholly inadequate for mine, were treated anew by
myself. And lastly I am, of course, responsible for all final
conclusions, unless Morgan is expressly quoted.



The first large editions of this work have been out of print for nearly
six months, and the publisher has for some time requested of me the
arrangement of a new edition. Urgent duties have hitherto prevented me.
Seven years have passed, since the first edition made its appearance;
during this time, the study of primeval forms of the family has made
considerable progress. Hence it became necessary to apply diligently the
improving and supplementing hand, more especially, as the proposed
stereotyping of the present text will make further changes impossible
for some time.

Consequently, I have subjected the whole text to a thorough revision and
made a number of additions which, I hope, will give due recognition to
the present stage of scientific progress. Furthermore, I give in the
course of this preface a short synopsis of the history of the family as
treated by various writers from Bachofen to Morgan. I am doing this
mainly because the English prehistoric school, tinged with chauvinism,
is continually doing its utmost to kill by its silence the revolution in
primeval conceptions effected by Morgan's discoveries. At the same time
this school is not at all backward in appropriating to its own use the
results of Morgan's study. In certain other circles also this English
example is unhappily followed rather extensively.

My work has been translated into different languages. First into
Italian; L'origine della famiglia, della proprietá privata e dello
stato, versione riveduta dall' autore, di Pasquale Martignetti;
Benevento, 1885. Then into Roumanian: Origina familei, proprietatei
private si a statului, traducere de Ivan Nadejde, in the Jassy
periodical "Contemporanul," September, 1885, to May, 1886. Furthermore
into Danish: Familjens, Privatejendommens og Statens Oprindelse, Dansk,
af Forfatteren gennemgaaet Udgave, besörget af Gerson Trier,
Kjoebenhavn, 1888. A French translation by Henri Ravé, founded on the
present German edition, is under the press.

Up to the beginning of the sixties, a history of the family cannot be
spoken of. This branch of historical science was then entirely under the
influence of the decalogue. The patriarchal form of the family,
described more exhaustively by Moses than by anybody else, was not only,
without further comment, considered as the most ancient, but also as
identical with the family of our times. No historical development of the
family was even recognized. At best it was admitted that a period of
sexual license might have existed in primeval times.

To be sure, aside from monogamy, oriental polygamy and Indo-Tibethan
polyandry were known; but these three forms could not be arranged in any
historical order and stood side by side without any connection. That
some nations of ancient history and some savage tribes of the present
day did not trace their descent to the father, but to the mother, hence
considered the female lineage as alone valid; that many nations of our
time prohibit intermarrying inside of certain large groups, the extent
of which was not yet ascertained and that this custom is found in all
parts of the globe--these facts were known, indeed, and more examples
were continually collected. But nobody knew how to make use of them.
Even in E. B. Taylor's "Researches into the Early History of Mankind,"
etc. (1865), they are only mentioned as "queer customs" together with
the usage of some savage tribes to prohibit the touching of burning
wood with iron, tools, and similar religious absurdities.

This history of the family dates from 1861, the year of the publication
of Bachofen's "Mutterrecht" (maternal law). Here the author makes the
following propositions:

1. That in the beginning people lived in unrestricted sexual
intercourse, which he dubs, not very felicitously, hetaerism.

2. That such an intercourse excludes any absolutely certain means of
determining parentage; that consequently descent could only be traced by
the female line in compliance with maternal law--and that this was
universally practiced by all the nations of antiquity.

3. That consequently women as mothers, being the only well known parents
of younger generations, received a high tribute of respect and
deference, amounting to a complete women's rule (gynaicocracy),
according to Bachofen's idea.

4. That the transition to monogamy, reserving a certain woman
exclusively to one man, implied the violation of a primeval religious
law (i. e., practically a violation of the customary right of all other
men to the same woman), which violation had to be atoned for or its
permission purchased by the surrender of the women to the public for a
limited time.

Bachofen finds the proofs of these propositions in numerous quotations
from ancient classics, collected with unusual diligence. The transition
from "hetaerism" to monogamy and from maternal to paternal law is
accomplished according to him--especially by the Greeks--through the
evolution of religious ideas. New gods, the representatives of the new
ideas, are added to the traditional group of gods, the representatives
of old ideas; the latter are forced to the background more and more by
the former. According to Bachofen, therefore, it is not the development
of the actual conditions of life that has effected the historical
changes in the relative social positions of man and wife, but the
religious reflection of these conditions in the minds of men. Hence
Bachofen represents the Oresteia of Aeschylos as the dramatic
description of the fight between the vanishing maternal and the paternal
law, rising and victorious during the time of the heroes.

Klytaemnestra has killed her husband Agamemnon on his return from the
Trojan war for the sake of her lover Aegisthos; but Orestes, her son by
Agamemnon, avenges the death of his father by killing his mother.
Therefore he is persecuted by the Erinyes, the demonic protectors of
maternal law, according to which the murder of a mother is the most
horrible, inexpiable crime. But Apollo, who has instigated Orestes to
this act by his oracle, and Athene, who is invoked as arbitrator--the
two deities representing the new paternal order of things--protect him.
Athene gives a hearing to both parties. The whole question is summarized
in the ensuing debate between Orestes and the Erinyes. Orestes claims
that Klytemnaestra has committed a twofold crime: by killing her husband
she has killed his father. Why do the Erinyes persecute him and not her
who is far more guilty?

The reply is striking:

"She was not related by blood to the man whom she slew."

The murder of a man not consanguineous, even though he be the husband of
the murderess, is expiable, does not concern the Erinyes; it is only
their duty to prosecute the murder of consanguineous relatives.
According to maternal law, therefore, the murder of a mother is the most
heinous and inexpiable crime. Now Apollo speaks in defense of Orestes.
Athene then calls on the areopagites--the jurors of Athens--to vote;
the votes are even for acquittal and for condemnation. Thereupon Athene
as president of the jury casts her vote in favor of Orestes and acquits
him. Paternal law has gained a victory over maternal law, the deities of
the "younger generation," as the Erinyes call them, vanquish the latter.
These are finally persuaded to accept a new office under the new order
of things.

This new, but decidedly accurate interpretation of the Oresteia is one
of the most beautiful and best passages in the whole book, but it proves
at the same time that Bachofen himself believes as much in the Erinyes,
in Apollo and in Athene, as Aeschylos did in his day. He really
believes, that they performed the miracle of securing the downfall of
maternal law through paternal law during the time of the Greek heroes.
That a similar conception, representing religion as the main lever of
the world's history, must finally lead to sheer mysticism, is evident.

Therefore it is a troublesome and not always profitable task to work
your way through the big volume of Bachofen. Still, all this does not
curtail the value of his fundamental work. He was the first to replace
the assumption of an unknown primeval condition of licentious sexual
intercourse by the demonstration that ancient classical literature
points out a multitude of traces proving the actual existence among
Greeks and Asiatics of other sexual relations before monogamy. These
relations not only permitted a man to have intercourse with several
women, but also left a woman free to have sexual intercourse with
several men without violating good morals. This custom did not disappear
without leaving as a survival the form of a general surrender for a
limited time by which women had to purchase the right of monogamy. Hence
descent could originally only be traced by the female line, from mother
to mother. The sole legality of the female line was preserved far into
the time of monogamy with assured, or at least acknowledged, paternity.
Consequently, the original position of the mothers as the sole
absolutely certain parents of their children secured for them and for
all other women a higher social level than they have ever enjoyed since.
Although Bachofen, biased by his mystic conceptions, did not formulate
these propositions so clearly, still he proved their correctness. This
was equivalent to a complete revolution in 1861.

Bachofen's big volume was written In German, i. e., in the language of a
nation that cared less than any other of its time for the history of the
present family. Therefore he remained unknown. The man next succeeding
him in the same field made his appearance in 1865 without having ever
heard of Bachofen.

This successor was J. F. McLennan, the direct opposite of his
predecessor. Instead of the talented mystic, we have here the dry
jurist; in place of the rank growth of poetical imagination, we find the
plausible combinations of the pleading lawyer. McLennan finds among many
savage, barbarian and even civilized people of ancient and modern times
a type of marriage forcing the bride-groom, alone or in co-operation
with his friends, to go through the form of a mock forcible abduction of
the bride. This must needs be a survival of an earlier custom when men
of one tribe actually secured their wives by forcible abduction from
another tribe. How did this "robber marriage" originate? As long as the
men could find women enough in their own tribe, there was no occasion
for robbing. It so happens that we frequently find certain groups among
undeveloped nations (which in 1865 were often considered identical with
the tribes themselves), inside of which intermarrying was prohibited. In
consequence the men (or women) of a certain group were forced to choose
their wives (or husbands) outside of their group. Other tribes again
observe the custom of forcing their men to choose their women inside of
their own group only. McLennan calls the first exogamous, the second
endogamous, and construes forthwith a rigid contrast between exogamous
and endogamous "tribes." And though his own investigation of exogamy
makes it painfully obvious that this contrast in many, if not in most or
even in all cases, exists in his own imagination only, he nevertheless
makes it the basis of his entire theory. According to the latter,
exogamous tribes can choose their women only from other tribes. And as
in conformity with their savage state a condition of continual warfare
existed among such tribes, women could only be secured by abduction.

McLennan further asks: Whence this custom of exogamy? The idea of
consanguinity and rape could not have anything to do with it, since
these conceptions were developed much later. But it was a widely spread
custom among savages to kill female children immediately after their
birth. This produced a surplus of males in such a tribe which naturally
resulted in the condition where several men had one woman--polyandry.
The next consequence was that the mother of a child could be
ascertained, but not its father; hence: descent only traced by the
female line and exclusion of male lineage--maternal law. And a second
consequence of the scarcity of women in a certain tribe--a scarcity that
was somewhat mitigated, but not relieved by polyandry--was precisely the
forcible abduction of women from other tribes. "As exogamy and polyandry
are referable to one and the same cause--a want of balance between the
sexes--we are forced to regard all the exogamous races as having
originally been polyandrous.... Therefore we must hold it to be beyond
dispute that among exogamous races the first system of kinship was that
which recognized blood-ties through mothers only."[2]

It is the merit of McLennan to have pointed out the general extent and
the great importance of what he calls exogamy. However, he has by no
means discovered the fact of exogamous groups; neither did he understand
their presence. Aside from earlier scattered notes of many
observers--from which McLennan quoted--Latham had accurately and
correctly described this institution among the Indian Magars[3] and
stated that it was widespread and practiced in all parts of the globe.
McLennan himself quotes this passage. As early as 1847, our friend
Morgan had also pointed out and correctly described the same custom in
his letters on the Iroquois (in the American Review) and in 1851 in "The
League of the Iroquois." We shall see, how the lawyer's instinct of
McLennan has introduced more disorder into this subject than the mystic
imagination of Bachofen did into the field of maternal law.

It must be said to McLennan's credit that he recognized the custom of
tracing decent by maternal law as primeval, although Bachofen has
anticipated him in this respect. McLennan has admitted this later on.
But here again he is not clear on the subject. He always speaks of
"kinship through females only" and uses this expression, correctly
applicable to former stages, in connection with later stages of
development, when descent and heredity were still exclusively traced
along female lines, but at the same time kinship on the male side began
to be recognized and expressed. It is the narrow-mindedness of the
jurist, establishing a fixed legal expression and employing it
incessantly to denote conditions to which it should no longer be

In spite of its plausibility, McLennan's theory did not seem too well
founded even in the eyes of its author. At least he finds it remarkable
himself "that the form of capture is now most distinctly marked and
impressive just among those races which have male kinship."[4]

And again: "It is a curious fact that nowhere now, that we are aware of,
is infanticide a system where exogamy and the earliest form of kinship

Both these facts directly disprove his method of explanation, and he can
only meet them with new and still more complicated hypotheses.

In spite of this, his theory found great approval and favor in England.
Here McLennan was generally considered as the founder of the history of
the family and as the first authority on this subject. His contrast of
exogamous and endogamous "tribes" remained the recognized foundation of
the customary views, however much single exceptions and modifications
were admitted. This antithesis became the eye-flap that rendered
impossible any free view of the field under investigation and,
therefore, any decided progress. It is our duty to confront this
overrating of McLennan, practised in England and copied elsewhere, with
the fact that he has done more harm with his ill-conceived contrast of
exogamous and endogamous tribes than he has done good by his

Moreover, in the course of time more and more facts became known that
did not fit into his neat frame. McLennan knew only three forms of
marriage: polygamy, polyandry and monogamy. But once attention had been
directed to this point, then more and more proofs were found that among
undeveloped nations there were connubial forms in which a group of men
possessed a group of women. Lubbock in his "Origin of Civilization"
(1870) recognized this "communal marriage" as a historical fact.

Immediately after him, in 1871, Morgan appeared with fresh and, in many
respects, conclusive material. He had convinced himself that the
peculiar system of kinship in vogue among the Iroquois was common to all
the aborigines of the United States, and practised all over the
continent, although it was in direct contradiction with all the degrees
of relation arising from the connubial system in practice there. He
prevailed on the federal government to collect information on the
systems of kinship of other nations by the help of question blanks and
tables drawn up by himself. The answers brought the following results:

1. The kinship system of the American Indians is also in vogue in Asia,
and in a somewhat modified form among numerous tribes of Africa and

2. This system finds a complete explanation in a certain form of
communal marriage now in process of decline in Hawaii and some
Australian islands.

3. By the side of this marital form, there is in practice on the same
islands a system of kinship only explicable by a still more primeval and
now extinct form of communal marriage.

The collected data and the conclusions of Morgan were published in his
"Systems of Consanguinity and Affinity," 1871, and discussion
transferred to a far more extensive field. Taking his departure from the
system of affinity he reconstructed the corresponding forms of the
family, thereby opening a new road to scientific investigation and
extending the retrospective view into prehistoric periods of human life.
Once this view gained recognition, then the frail structure of
McLennan, would vanish into thin air.

McLennan defended his theory in the new edition of "Primitive Marriage"
(Studies in Ancient History, 1875). While he himself most artificially
combines into a history of the family a number of hypotheses, he not
only demands proofs from Lubbock and Morgan for every one of their
propositions, but insists on proofs of such indisputable validity as is
solely recognized in a Scotch court. And this is done by the same man
who unhesitatingly concludes that the following people practiced
polyandry: The Germans, on account of the intimate relation between
uncle and nephew (mother's brother and sister's son); the Britons,
because Cesar reports that the Britons have ten to twelve women in
common; barbarians, because all other reports of the old writers on
community of women are misinterpreted by him! One is reminded of a
prosecuting attorney who takes all possible liberty in making up his
case, but who demands the most formal and legally valid proof for every
word of the lawyer for the defense.

He asserts that communal marriage is purely the outgrowth of
imagination, and in so doing falls far behind Bachofen. He represents
Morgan's systems of affinity as mere codes of conventional politeness,
proven by the fact that Indians address also strangers, white people, as
brother or father. This is like asserting that the terms father, mother,
brother, sister are simply meaningless forms of address, because
Catholic priests and abbesses are also addressed as father and mother,
and monks and nuns, or even free-masons and members of English
professional clubs in solemn session, as brother and sister. In short,
McLennan's defense was extremely weak.

One point still remained that had not been attacked. The contrast of
exogamous and endogamous tribes, on which his whole system was founded,
was not only left unchallenged, but was even generally regarded as the
pivotal point of the entire history of the family. It was admitted that
McLennan's attempt to explain this contrast was insufficient and in
contradiction with the facts enumerated by himself. But the contrast
itself, the existence of two diametrically opposed forms of independent
and absolute groups, one of them marrying the women of its own group,
the other strictly forbidding this habit, was considered irrefutable
gospel. Compare e. g. Giraud-Teulon's "Origines de la famille" (1874)
and even Lubbock's "Origin of Civilization" (4th edition, 1882).

At this point Morgan's main work, "Ancient Society" (1877), inserts its
lever. It is this work on which the present volume is based. Here we
find clearly demonstrated what was only dimly perceived by Morgan in
1871. There is no antithesis between endogamy and exogamy; no exogamous
"tribes" have been found up to the present time. But at the time when
communal marriage still existed--and in all probability it once existed
everywhere--a tribe was subdivided into a number of
groups--"gentes"--consanguineous on the mother's side, within which
intermarrying was strictly forbidden. The men of a certain "gens,"
therefore, could choose their wives within the tribe, and did so as a
rule, but had to choose them outside of the "gens." And while thus the
"gens" was strictly exogamous, the tribe comprising an aggregate of
"gentes" was equally endogamous. This fact gave the final blow to
McLennan's artificial structure.

But Morgan did not rest here. The "gens" of the American Indians
furthermore assisted him in gaining another important step in the field
under investigation. He found that this "gens," organized in conformity
with maternal law, was the original form out of which later on the
"gens" by paternal law developed, such as we find it among the civilized
nations of antiquity. The Greek and Roman "gens," an unsolved riddle to
all historians up to our time, found its explanation in the Indian
"gens." A new foundation was discovered for the entire primeval history.

The repeated discovery that the original maternal "gens" was a
preliminary stage of the paternal "gens" of civilized nations has the
same signification for primeval history that Darwin's theory of
evolution had for biology and Marx's theory of surplus value for
political economy. Morgan was thereby enabled to sketch the outline of a
history of the family, showing in bold strokes at least the classic
stages of development, so far as the available material will at present
permit such a thing. It is clearly obvious that this marks a new epoch
in the treatment of primeval history. The maternal "gens" has become the
pivot on which this whole science revolves. Since its discovery we know
in what direction to continue our researches, what to investigate and
how to arrange the results of our studies. In consequence, progress in
this field is now much more rapid than before the publication of
Morgan's book.

The discoveries of Morgan are now universally recognized, or rather
appropriated, even by the archaeologists of England. But hardly one of
them openly admits that we owe this revolution of thought to Morgan. His
book is ignored in England as much as possible, and he himself is
dismissed with condescending praise for the excellence of his former
works. The details of his discussion are diligently criticised, but his
really great discoveries are covered up obstinately. The original
edition of "Ancient Society" is out of print; there is no paying market
for a work of this kind in America; in England, it appears, the book was
systematically suppressed, and the only edition of this epochal work
still circulating in the market is--the German translation.

Whence this reserve? We can hardly refrain from calling it a conspiracy
to kill by silence, especially in view of the numerous meaningless and
polite quotations and of other manifestations of fellowship in which the
writings of our recognized archaeologists abound. Is it because Morgan
is an American, and because it is rather hard on the English
archaeologists to be dependent on two talented foreigners like Bachofen
and Morgan for the outlines determining the arrangement and grouping of
their material, in spite of all praiseworthy diligence in accumulating
material. They could have borne with the German, but an American? In
face of an American, every Englishman becomes patriotic. I have seen
amusing illustrations of this fact in the United States. Moreover, it
must be remembered that McLennan was, so to say, the official founder
and leader of the English prehistoric school. It was almost a
requirement of good prehistoric manners to refer in terms of highest
admiration to his artificial construction of history leading from
infanticide through polyandry and abduction to maternal law. The least
doubt in the strictly independent existence of exogamous and endogamous
tribes was considered a frivolous sacrilege. According to this view,
Morgan, in reducing all these sacred dogmas to thin air, committed an
act of wanton destruction. And worse still, his mere manner of reducing
them sufficed to show their instability, so that the admirers of
McLennan, who hitherto had been stumbling about helplessly between
exogamy and endogamy, were almost forced to slap their foreheads and
exclaim: "How silly of us, not to have found that out long ago!"

Just as if Morgan had not committed crimes enough against the official
archaeologists to justify them in discarding all fair methods and
assuming an attitude of cool neglect, he persisted in filling their cup
to overflowing. Not only does he criticise civilization, the society of
production for profit, the fundamental form of human society, in a
manner savoring of Fourier, but he also speaks of a future
reorganization of society in language that Karl Marx might have used.
Consequently, he receives his just deserts, when McLennan indignantly
charges him with a profound antipathy against historical methods, and
when Professor Giraud-Teulon of Geneva endorses the same view in 1884.
For was not the same Professor Giraud-Teulon still wandering about
aimlessly in the maze of McLennan's exogamy in 1874 (Origines de la
famille)? And was it not Morgan who finally had to set him free?

It is not necessary to dwell in this preface on the other forms of
progress which primeval history owes to Morgan. Reference to them will
be found in the course of my work. During the fourteen years that have
elapsed since the publication of his main work, the material
contributing to the history of primeval society has been considerably
enriched. Anthropologists, travelers and professional historians were
joined by comparative jurists who added new matter and opened up new
points of view. Here and there, some special hypothesis of Morgan has
been shaken or even become obsolete. But in no instance has the new
material led to a weakening of his leading propositions. The order he
established in primeval history still holds good in its main outlines to
this day. We may even say that this order receives recognition in the
exact degree, in which the authorship of this great progress is

London, June 16th, 1891.



[1] Ancient Society or Researches in the Lines of Human Progress from
Savagery, through Barbarism, to Civilization. By Lewis H. Morgan. Henry
Holt & Co. 1877. The book, printed in America, was singularly difficult
to obtain in London. The author died a few years ago.

[2] McLennan, Studies in Ancient History, 1886. Primitive Marriage, p.

[3] Latham, Descriptive Ethnology, 1859.

[4] McLennan, Studies In Ancient History, 1886. Primitive Marriage, p.

[5] Ibidem, p. 146.




Morgan was the first to make an attempt at introducing a logical order
into the history of primeval society. Until considerably more material
is obtained, no further changes will be necessary and his arrangement
will surely remain in force.

Of the three main epochs--savagery, barbarism and
civilization--naturally only the first two and the transition to the
third required his attention. He subdivided each of these into a lower,
middle and higher stage, according to the progress in the production of
the means of sustenance. His reason for doing so is that the degree of
human supremacy over nature is conditioned on the ability to produce the
necessities of life. For of all living beings, man alone has acquired an
almost unlimited control over food production. All great epochs of human
progress, according to Morgan, coincide more or less directly with times
of greater abundance in the means that sustain life. The evolution of
the family proceeds in the same measure without, however, offering
equally convenient marks for sub-division.


1. Lower Stage. Infancy of the human race. Human beings still dwelt in
their original habitation, in tropical or subtropical forests. They
lived at least part of the time in trees, for only in this way they
could escape the attacks of large beasts of prey and survive. Fruit,
nuts, and roots served as food. The formation of articulated speech is
the principal result of this period. Not a single one of all the nations
that have become known in historic times dates back to this primeval

Although the latter may extend over thousands of years, we have no means
of proving its existence by direct evidence. But once the descent of man
from the Animal Kingdom is acknowledged, the acceptance of this stage of
transition becomes inevitable.

2. Middle Stage: Commencing with the utilization of fish (including
crabs, mollusks and other aquatic animals) and the use of fire. Both
these things belong together, because fish becomes thoroughly palatable
by the help of fire only. With this new kind of food, human beings
became completely independent of climate and locality. Following the
course of rivers and coastlines, they could spread over the greater part
of the earth even in the savage state. The so-called palaeolithic
implements of the early stone age, made of rough, unsharpened stones,
belong almost entirely to this period. Their wide distribution over all
the continents testifies to the extent of these wanderings. The
unceasing bent for discovery, together with the possession of fire
gained by friction, created new products in the lately occupied regions.
Such were farinaceous roots and tubers, baked in hot ashes or in baking
pits (ground ovens). When the first weapons, club and spear, were
invented, venison was occasionally added to the bill of fare. Nations
subsisting exclusively by hunting, such as we sometimes find mentioned
in books, have never existed; for the proceeds of hunting are too
uncertain. In consequence of continued precariousness of the sources of
sustenance, cannibalism seems to arise at this stage. It continues in
force for a long while. Even in our day, Australians and Polynesians
still remain in this middle stage of savagery.

3. Higher Stage: Coming with the invention of bow and arrow, this stage
makes venison a regular part of daily fare and hunting a normal
occupation. Bow, arrow and cord represent a rather complicated
instrument, the invention of which presupposes a long and accumulated
experience and increased mental ability; incidentally they are
conditioned on the acquaintance with a number of other inventions.

In comparing the nations that are familiar with the use of bow and
arrow, but not yet with the art of pottery (from which Morgan dates the
transition to barbarism), we find among them the beginnings of village
settlements, a control of food production, wooden vessels and utensils,
weaving of bast fibre by hand (without a loom), baskets made of bast or
reeds, and sharpened (neolithic) stone implements. Generally fire and
the stone ax have also furnished the dugout and, here and there, timbers
and boards for house-building. All these improvements are found, e. g.,
among the American Indians of the Northwest, who use bow and arrows, but
know nothing as yet about pottery. Bow and arrows were for the stage of
savagery what the iron sword was for barbarism and the fire-arm for
civilization; the weapon of supremacy.


1. Lower Stage. Dates from the introduction of the art of pottery. The
latter is traceable in many cases, and probably attributable in all
cases, to the custom of covering wooden or plaited vessels with clay in
order to render them fire-proof. It did not take long to find out that
moulded clay served the same purpose without a lining of other material.

Hitherto we could consider the course of evolution as being equally
characteristic, in a general way, for all the nations of a certain
period, without reference to locality. But with the beginning of
barbarism, we reach a stage where the difference in the natural
resources of the two great bodies of land makes itself felt. The salient
features of this stage of barbarism is the taming and raising of animals
and the cultivation of plants. Now the eastern body of land, the
so-called old world, contained nearly all the tamable animals and all
the cultivable species of grain but one; while the western continent,
America, possessed only one tamable mammal, the llama (even this only in
a certain part of the South), and only one, although the best, species
of grain: the corn. From now on, these different conditions of nature
lead the population of each hemisphere along divergent roads, and the
landmarks on the boundaries of the various stages differ in both cases.

2. Middle Stage. Commencing in the East with the domestication of
animals, in the West with the cultivation and irrigation of foodplants;
also with the use of adobes (bricks baked in the sun) and stones for

We begin in the West, because there this stage was never outgrown up to
the time of the conquest by Europeans.

At the time of their discovery, the Indians in the lower stage of
barbarism (all those living east of the Mississippi) carried on
cultivation on a small scale in gardens. Corn, and perhaps also
pumpkins, melons and other garden truck were raised. A very essential
part of their sustenance was produced in this manner. They lived in
wooden houses, in fortified villages. The tribes of the Northwest,
especially those of the region along the Columbia river, were still in
the higher stage of savagery, ignorant of pottery and of any cultivation
of plants whatever. But the so-called Pueblo Indians in New Mexico, the
Mexicans, Central-Americans and Peruvians, were in the middle-stage of
barbarism. They lived in fortlike houses of adobe or stone, cultivated
corn and other plants suitable to various conditions of localities and
climate in artificially irrigated gardens that represented the main
source of nourishment, and even kept a few tamed animals--the Mexicans
the turkey and other birds, the Peruvians the llama. Furthermore they
were familiar with the use of metals--iron excepted, and for this reason
they could not get along yet without stone weapons and stone implements.
The conquest by the Spaniards cut short all further independent

In the East, the middle stage of barbarism began with the taming of milk
and meat producing animals, while the cultivation of plants seems to
have remained unknown far into this period. It appears that the taming
and raising of animals and the formation of large herds gave rise to the
separation of Aryans and Semites from the rest of the barbarians. Names
of animals are still common to the languages of European and Asian
Aryans, while this is almost never the case with the names of cultivated

In suitable localities, the formation of herds led to a nomadic life, as
with the Semites in the grassy plains of the Euphrates and Tigris, the
Aryans in the plains of India, of the Oxus, Jaxartes, Don and Dnieper.
Along the borders of such pasture lands, the taming of animals must have
been accomplished first. But later generations conceived the mistaken
idea that the nomadic tribes had their origin in regions supposed to be
the cradle of humanity, while in reality their savage ancestors and even
people in the lower stage of barbarism would have found these regions
almost unfit for habitation. On the other hand, once these barbarians of
the middle stage were accustomed to nomadic life, nothing could have
induced them to return voluntarily from the grassy river plains to the
forests that had been the home of their ancestors. Even when Semites and
Aryans were forced further to the North and West, it was impossible for
them to occupy the forest regions of Western Asia and Europe, until they
were enabled by agriculture to feed their animals on this less favorable
soil and especially to maintain them during the winter. It is more than
probable that the cultivation of grain was due primarily to the demand
for stock feed, and became an important factor of human sustenance at a
later period.

The superior development of Aryans and Semites is, perhaps, attributable
to the copious meat and milk diet of both races, more especially to the
favorable influence of such food on the growth of children. As a matter
of fact, the Pueblo Indians of New Mexico who live on an almost purely
vegetarian diet, have a smaller brain than the Indians in the lower
stage of barbarism who eat more meat and fish. At any rate, cannibalism
gradually disappears at this stage and is maintained only as a religious
observance or, what is here nearly identical, as a magic remedy.[6]

3. Higher Stage. Beginning with the melting of iron ore and merging into
civilization by the invention of letter script and its utilization for
writing records. This stage which is passed independently only on the
Eastern Hemisphere, is richer in improvements of production than all
preceding stages together. It is the stage of the Greek heroes, the
Italian tribes shortly before the foundation of Rome, the Germans of
Tacitus, the Norsemen of the Viking age.

We are here confronted for the first time with the iron ploughshare
drawn by animals, rendering possible agriculture on a large scale, in
fields, and hence a practically unlimited increase in the production of
food for the time being. The next consequence is the clearing of forests
and their transformation into arable land and meadows--which process,
however, could not be continued on a larger scale without the help of
the iron ax and the iron spade. Naturally, these improvements brought a
more rapid increase of population and a concentration of numbers into a
small area. Before the time of field cultivation a combination of half a
million of people under one central management could have been possible
only under exceptionally favorable conditions; most likely this was
never the case.

The greatest attainments of the higher stage of barbarism are presented
in Homer's poems, especially in the Iliad. Improved iron tools; the
bellows; the hand-mill; the potter's wheel; the preparation of oil and
wine; a well developed fashioning of metals verging on artisanship; the
wagon and chariot; ship-building with beams and boards; the beginning of
artistic architecture; towns surrounded by walls with turrets and
battlements; the Homeric epos and the entire mythology--these are the
principal bequests transmitted by the Greeks from barbarism to
civilization. In comparing these attainments with the description given
by Cesar or even Tacitus of Germans, who were in the beginning of the
same stage of evolution which the Greeks were preparing to leave for a
higher one, we perceive the wealth of productive development comprised
in the higher stage of barbarism.

The sketch which I have here produced after Morgan of the evolution of
the human race through savagery and barbarism to the beginning of
civilization is even now rich in new outlines. More still, these
outlines are incontrovertible, because traced directly from production.
Nevertheless, this sketch will appear faint and meagre in comparison to
the panorama unrolled to our view at the end of our pilgrimage. Not
until then will it be possible to show in their true light both the
transition from barbarianism to civilization and the striking contrast
between them. For the present we can summarize Morgan's arrangement in
the following manner: Savagery--time of predominating appropriation of
finished natural products; human ingenuity invents mainly tools useful
in assisting this appropriation. Barbarism--time of acquiring the
knowledge of cattle raising, of agriculture and of new methods for
increasing the productivity of nature by human agency. Civilization:
time of learning a wider utilization, of natural products, of
manufacturing and of art.


[6] Translator's note.

Advocates of vegetarianism may, of course, challenge this statement and
show that all the testimony of anthropology is not in favor of the
meat-eaters. It must also be admitted that diet is not the only
essential factor in environment which influences the development of
races. And there is no conclusive evidence to prove the absolute
superiority of one diet over another. Neither have we any proofs that
cannibalism ever was in general practice. It rather seems to have been
confined to limited groups of people in especially ill-favored
localities or to times of great scarcity of food. Hence we can neither
refer to cannibalism as a typical stage in human history, nor are we
obliged to accept the vegetarian hypothesis of a transition from a meat
diet to a plant diet as a condition sine qua non of higher human



Morgan, who spent the greater part of his life among the Iroquois in the
State of New York and who had been adopted into one of their tribes, the
Senecas, found among them a system of relationship that was in
contradiction with their actual family relations. Among them existed
what Morgan terms the syndyasmian or pairing family, a monogamous state
easily dissolved by either side. The offspring of such a couple was
identified and acknowledged by all the world. There could be no doubt to
whom to apply the terms father, mother, son, daughter, brother, sister.
But the actual use of these words was not in keeping with their
fundamental meaning. For the Iroquois addresses as sons and daughters
not only his own children, but also those of his brothers; and he is
called father by all of them. But the children of his sisters he calls
nephews and nieces, and they call him uncle. Vice versa, an Iroquois
woman calls her own children as well as those of her sisters sons and
daughters and is addressed as mother by them. But the children of her
brothers are called nephews and nieces, and they call her aunt. In the
same way, the children of brothers call one another brothers and
sisters, and so do the children of sisters. But the children of a sister
call those of her brother cousins, and vice versa. And these are not
simply meaningless terms, but expressions of actually existing
conceptions of proximity and remoteness, equality or inequality of

These conceptions serve as the fundament of a perfectly elaborated
system of relationship, capable of expressing several hundred different
relations of a single individual. More still, this system is not only
fully accepted by all American Indians--no exception has been found so
far--but it is also in use with hardly any modifications among the
original inhabitants of India, among the Dravidian tribes of the Dekan
and the Gaura tribes of Hindostan.

The terms of relationship used by the Tamils of Southern India and by
the Seneca-Iroquois of New York State are to this day identical for more
than two hundred different family relations. And among these East Indian
tribes also, as among all American Indians, the relations arising out of
the prevailing form of the family are not in keeping with the system of

How can this be explained? In view of the important role played by
kinship in the social order of all the savage and barbarian races, the
significance of such a widespread system cannot be obliterated by

A system that is generally accepted in America, that also exists in Asia
among people of entirely different races, that is frequently found in a
more or less modified form all over Africa and Australia, such a system
requires a historical explanation and cannot be talked down, as was
attempted, e. g., by McLennan. The terms father, child, brother, sister
are more than mere honorary titles; they carry in their wake certain
well-defined and very serious obligations, the aggregate of which
comprises a very essential part of the social constitution of those
nations. And the explanation was found. In the Sandwich Islands (Hawaii)
there existed up to the first half of the nineteenth century a family
form producing just such fathers and mothers, brothers and sisters,
uncles and aunts, nephews and nieces, as the old Indo-American system of
kinship. But how remarkable! The Hawaiian system of kinship again did
not agree with the family form actually prevailing there. For there all
the children of brothers and sisters, without any exception, are
considered brothers and sisters, and regarded as the common children not
only of their mother or her sisters, or their father and his brothers,
but of all the brothers and sisters of their parents without
distinction. While thus the American system of kinship presupposes an
obsolete primitive form of the family, which is still actually existing
in Hawaii, the Hawaiian system on the other hand points to a still more
primitive form of the family, the actual existence of which cannot be
proved any more, but which must have existed, because otherwise such a
system of kinship could not have arisen. According to Morgan, the family
is the active element; it is never stationary, but in progression from a
lower to a higher form in the same measure in which society develops
from a lower to a higher stage. But the systems of kinship are passive.
Only in long intervals they register the progress made by the family in
course of time, and only then are they radically changed, when the
family has done so. "And," adds Marx, "it is the same with political,
juridical, religious and philosophical systems in general." While the
family keeps on growing, the system of kinship becomes ossified. The
latter continues in this state and the family grows beyond it. With the
same certainty which enabled Cuvier to conclude from some bones of
Marsupialia found near Paris that extinct marsupialia had lived there,
with this same certainty may we conclude from a system of kinship
transmitted by history that the extinct form of the family corresponding
to this system was once in existence.

The systems of kinship and forms of the family just mentioned differ
from the present systems in that every child has several fathers and
mothers. Under the American system to which the Hawaiian system
corresponds, brother and sister cannot be father and mother of the same
child; but the Hawaiian system presupposes a family, in which, on the
contrary, this was the rule. We are here confronted by a series of
family forms that are in direct contradiction with those that were
currently regarded as alone prevailing. The conventional conception
knows only monogamy, furthermore polygamy of one man, eventually also
polyandry of one woman. But it passes in silence, as is meet for a
moralizing philistine, that the practice silently but without
compunction supersedes these barriers sanctioned officially by society.
The study of primeval history, however, shows us conditions, where men
practiced polygamy and women at the same time polyandry, so that their
children were considered common to all; conditions that up to their
final transition into monogamy underwent a whole series of
modifications. These modifications slowly and gradually contract the
circle comprised by the common tie of marriage until only the single
couple remains which prevails to-day.

In thus constructing backward the history of the family, Morgan, in
harmony with the majority of his colleagues, arrives at a primeval
condition, where unrestricted sexual intercourse existed within a tribe,
so that every woman belonged to every man, and vice versa.

Much has been said about this primeval state of affairs since the
eighteenth century, but only in general commonplaces. It is one of
Bachofen's great merits to have taken the subject seriously and to have
searched for traces of this state in historical and religious
traditions. To-day we know that these traces, found by him, do not lead
back to a stage of unlimited sexual intercourse, but to a much later
form, the group marriage. The primeval stage, if it really ever existed,
belongs to so remote a period, that we can hardly expect to find direct
proofs of its former existence among these social fossils, backward
savages. Bachofen's merit consists in having brought this question to
the fore.[7]

It has lately become a fashion to deny the existence of this early stage
of human sex life, in order to spare us this "shame." Apart from the
absence of all direct proof, the example of the rest of animal life is
invoked. From the latter, Letourneau (Evolution du mariage et de la
famille, 1888) quoted numerous facts, alleged to prove that among
animals also an absolutely unlimited sexual intercourse belongs to a
lower stage. But I can only conclude from all these facts that they
prove absolutely nothing for man and the primeval conditions of his
life. The mating of vertebrates for a lengthy term is sufficiently
explained by physiological causes, e. g., among birds by the
helplessness of the female during brooding time. Examples of faithful
monogamy among birds do not furnish any proofs for men, for we are not
descended from birds.

And if strict monogamy is the height of virtue, then the palm belongs to
the tapeworm that carries a complete male and female sexual apparatus in
each of its 50 to 200 sections and passes its whole lifetime in
fertilizing itself in every one of its sections. But if we confine
ourselves to mammals, we find all forms of sexual intercourse, license,
suggestions of group marriage, polygamy and monogamy. Only polyandry is
missing;[8] that could be accomplished by men only. Even our next
relations, the quadrumana, exhibit all possible differences in the
grouping of males and females. And if we draw the line still closer and
consider only the four anthropoid apes, Letourneau can only tell us,
that they are now monogamous, now polygamous; while Saussure contends
according to Giraud-Teulon that they are monogamous. The recent
contentions of Westermarck[9] in regard to monogamy among anthropoid
apes are far from proving anything. In short, the information is such
that honest Letourneau admits: "There exists no strict relation at all
between the degree of intellectual development and the form of sexual
intercourse among mammals." And Espinas says frankly:[10] "The herd is
the highest social group found among animals. It seems to be composed of
families, but from the outset the family and the herd are antagonistic;
they develop in directly opposite ratio."

It is evident from the above that we know next to nothing of the family
and other social groups of anthropoid apes; the reports are directly
contradictory. How full of contradiction, how much in need of critical
scrutiny and research are the reports even on savage human tribes! But
monkey tribes are far more difficult to observe than human tribes. For
the present, therefore, we must decline all final conclusions from such
absolutely unreliable reports.

The quotation from Espinas, however, offers a better clue. Among higher
animals, the herd and family are not supplements of one another, but
antitheses. Espinas demonstrates very nicely, how the jealousy of the
males loosens or temporarily dissolves every herd during mating time.
"Where the family is closely organized, herds are formed only in
exceptional cases. But wherever free sexual intercourse or polygamy are
existing, the herd appears almost spontaneously.... In order that a herd
may form, family ties must be loosened and the individual be free. For
this reason we so rarely find organized herds among birds.... Among
mammals, however, we find groups organized after a fashion, just because
here the individual is not merged in the family.... The rising sense of
cohesion in a herd cannot, therefore, have a greater enemy than the
consciousness of family ties. Let us not shrink from pronouncing it: the
development of a higher form of society than the family can be due only
to the fact that it admitted families which had undergone a thorough
change. This does not exclude the possibility that these same families
were thus enabled to reorganize later on under infinitely more favorable

It becomes apparent from this, that animal societies may indeed have a
certain value in drawing conclusions in regard to human life--but only
negatively. The higher vertebrate knows, so far as we may ascertain,
only two forms of the family: polygamy or pairs. In both of them there
is only one grown male, only one husband. The jealousy of the male, at
the same time tie and limit of the family, creates an opposition between
the animal family and the herd. The latter, a higher social form, is
here rendered impossible, there loosened or dissolved during mating
time, and at best hindered in its development by the jealousy of the
male. This in itself is sufficient proof that the animal family and
primeval human society are irreconcilable; that ancient man, struggling
upward from the animal stage, either had no family at all or at the most
one that does not exist among animals. A being so defenceless as
evolving man might well survive in small numbers though living in an
isolated state, the highest social form of which is that of pairs such
as Westermarck, relying on hunter's reports, attributes to the gorilla
and the chimpanzee. Another element is necessary for the elevation out
of the animal stage, for the realization of the highest progress found
in nature: the replacing of the defencelessness of the single individual
by the united strength and co-operation of the whole herd. The
transition from beast to man out of conditions of the sort under which
the anthropoid apes are living to-day would be absolutely unexplainable.
These apes rather give the impression of stray sidelines gradually
approaching extinction, and at all events in process of decline. This
alone is sufficient to reject all parallels between their family forms
and those of primeval man. But mutual tolerance of the grown males,
freedom from jealousy, was the first condition for the formation of such
large and permanent groups, within which alone the transformation from
beast to man could be accomplished. And indeed, what do we find to be
the most ancient and original form of the family, undeniably traceable
by history and even found to-day here and there? The group marriage,
that form in which whole groups of men and whole groups of women
mutually belong to one another, leaving only small scope for jealousy.
And furthermore we find at a later stage the exceptional form of
polyandry which still more supersedes all sentiments of jealousy and
hence is unknown to animals.

But all the forms of the group marriage known to us are accompanied by
such peculiarly complicated circumstances that they of necessity point
to a preceding simpler form of sexual intercourse and, hence, in the
last instance to a period of unrestricted sexual intercourse
corresponding to a transition from the animal to man. Therefore the
references to animal marriages lead us back to precisely that point,
from which they were intended to remove us forever.

What does the term "unrestricted sexual intercourse" mean? Simply, that
the restrictions in force now were not observed formerly. We have
already seen the barrier of jealousy falling. If anything is certain, it
is that jealousy is developed at a comparatively late stage. The same is
true of incest. Not only brother and sister were originally man and
wife, but also the sexual intercourse between parents and children is
permitted to this day among many nations. Bancroft testifies to the
truth of this among the Kaviats of the Behring Strait, the Kadiaks of
Alaska, the Tinnehs in the interior of British North America; Letourneau
compiled reports of the same fact in regard to the Chippeway Indians,
the Coocoos in Chile, the Caribeans, the Carens in Indo-China, not to
mention the tales of ancient Greeks and Romans about the Parthians,
Persians, Scythians, Huns and so forth. Before incest was invented (and
it is an invention, a really valuable one indeed), sexual intercourse
between parents and children could not be any more repulsive than
between other persons belonging to different generations, which takes
place even in our day among the most narrow-minded nations without
causing any horror. Even old "maids" of more than sixty years sometimes,
if they are rich enough, marry young men of about thirty. Eliminating
from the primeval forms of the family known to us those conceptions of
incest--conceptions totally different from ours and often enough in
direct contradiction with them--we arrive at a form of sexual
intercourse that can only be designated as unrestricted. Unrestricted in
the sense that the barriers drawn later on by custom did not yet exist.
This in no way necessarily implies for practical purposes an injudicious
pell-mell intercourse. The separate existence of pairs for a limited
time is not out of the question, and even comprises the majority of
cases in the group marriage of our days. And if the latest repudiator of
such a primeval state, Westermarck, designates as marriage every case,
where both sexes remain mated until the birth of the offspring, then
this is equivalent to saying that this kind of marriage may well exist
during a stage of unrestricted intercourse without contradicting
license, i. e., absence of barriers drawn by custom for sexual
intercourse. Westermarck bases himself on the opinion that "license
includes the suppression of individual affections" so that "prostitution
is its most genuine form." To me it rather seems that any understanding
of primeval conditions is impossible as long as we look at them through
brothel spectacles. We shall return to this point in the group marriage.

According to Morgan, the following forms developed from this primeval
state at an apparently early stage:


The Consanguine Family is the first step toward the family. Here the
marriage groups are arranged by generations: all the grand-fathers and
grand-mothers within a certain family are mutually husbands and wives;
and equally their children, the fathers and mothers, whose children form
a third cycle of mutual mates. The children of these again, the
great-grandchildren of the first cycle, will form a fourth. In this form
of the family, then, only ancestors and descendants are excluded from
what we would call the rights and duties of marriage. Brothers and
sisters, male and female cousins of the first, second and more remote
grades, are all mutually brothers and sisters and for this reason mutual
husbands and wives. The relation of brother and sister quite naturally
includes at this stage the practice of sexual intercourse.[12]

The typical form of such a family would consist of the offspring of one
pair, representing again the descendants of each grade as mutual
brothers and sisters and, therefore, mutual husbands and wives. The
consanguine family is extinct. Even the crudest nations of history do
not furnish any proofs of it. But the Hawaiian system of kinship, in
force to this day in all Polynesia, compels us to acknowledge its
former existence, for it exhibits grades of kinship that could only
originate in this form of the family. And the whole subsequent
development of the family compels us to admit this form as a necessary


While the first step of organization consisted in excluding parents and
children from mutual sexual intercourse, the second was the erection of
a barrier between brother and sister. This progress was much more
important on account of the greater equality in the ages of the parties
concerned, but also far more difficult. It was accomplished gradually,
probably beginning with the exclusion of the natural sister (i. e., on
the mother's side) from sexual intercourse, first in single cases, then
becoming more and more the rule (in Hawaii exceptions were still noted
during the nineteenth century), and finally ending with the prohibition
of marriage even among collateral brothers and sisters, i. e., what we
now term brother's and sister's children, grandchildren, and
great-grandchildren. This progress offers, according to Morgan, an
excellent illustration how the principle of natural selection works.
Without question, the tribes limiting inbreeding by this progress
developed faster and more completely than those retaining the marriage
between brothers and sisters as a rule and law. And how powerfully the
influence of this progress was felt, is shown by the institution of the
gens, directly attributable to it and passing far beyond the goal. The
gens is the foundation of the social order of most, if not all,
barbarian nations, and in Greece and Rome we step immediately from it to

Every primeval family necessarily had to divide after a few generations.
The originally communistic and collective household existing far into
the middle stage of barbarism, involved a certain maximum size of the
family, variable according to conditions, but still limited in a degree.
As soon as the conception of the impropriety of sexual intercourse
between children of the same mother arose, it naturally became effective
on such occasions as the division of old and the foundation of new
household communities (which, however, did not necessarily coincide with
the family group). One or more series of sisters became the center of
one group, their natural brothers that of another. In this or a similar
manner that form which Morgan styles the Punaluan family developed from
the consanguine family. According to Hawaiian custom, a number of
sisters, natural or more remote (i. e., cousins of the first, second and
more remote degrees) were the mutual wives of their mutual husbands,
their natural brothers excepted. These men now no longer addressed one
another as "brother"--which they no longer had to be--but as "Punalua,"
i. e., intimate companion, associate as it were. Likewise a series of
natural or more remote brothers lived in mutual marriage with a number
of women, not their natural sisters, and these women referred to each
other as "Punalua." This is the classical form of a family, which later
admitted of certain variations. Its fundamental characteristic was
mutual community of husbands and wives within a given family with the
exclusion of the natural brothers (or sisters) first, and of the more
remote grades later.

This form of the family, now, furnishes with complete accuracy the
degrees of kinship expressed by the American system. The children of the
sisters of my mother still are her children; likewise the children of
the brothers of my father still his children; and all of them are my
brothers and sisters. But the children of the brothers of my mother are
now her nephews and nieces, the children of the sisters of my father
his nephew and nieces, and they are all my cousins. For while the
husbands of the sisters of my mother are still her husbands, and
likewise the wives of the brothers of my father still his
wives--legally, if not always in fact--the social proscription of sexual
intercourse between brothers and sisters has now divided those relatives
who were formerly regarded without distinction as brothers and sisters,
into two classes. In one category are those who remain (more remote)
brothers and sisters as before; in the other the children of the brother
on one hand or the sister on the opposite, who can be brothers and
sisters no longer. The latter have mutual parents no more, neither
father nor mother nor both together. And for this reason the class of
nephews and nieces, male and female cousins, here becomes necessary for
the first time. Under the former family order this would have been
absurd. The American system of kinship, which appears absolutely
paradoxical in any family form founded on monogamy, is rationally
explained and naturally confirmed in its most minute details by the
Punaluan family. Wherever this system of kinship was in force, there the
Punaluan family or at least a form akin to it must also have existed.

This family form, the existence of which in Hawaii was actually
demonstrated, would have been transmitted probably by all Polynesia, if
the pious missionaries, similar to the Spanish monks in America, could
have looked upon such anti-Christian relations as being something more
than simply a "horror."[13] Cesar's report to the effect that the
Britons, who then were in the middle stage of barbarism, "have ten or
twelve women in common, mostly brothers with brothers and parents with
children," is best explained by group marriage. Barbarian mothers have
not ten or twelve sons old enough to keep women in common, but the
American system of kinship corresponding to the Punaluan family
furnishes many brothers, because all near and remote cousins of a
certain man are his brothers. The term "parents with children" may arise
from a wrong conception of Cesar, but this system does not absolutely
exclude the existence of father and son, mother or daughter in the same
group. It does exclude, however, father and daughter or mother and son.
This or a similar form of group marriage also furnishes the easiest
explanation of the reports of Herodotus and other ancient writers
concerning community of women among savage and barbarian nations. This
is true, furthermore, of Watson's and Kaye's[14] tale about the Tikurs
of Audh (north of the Ganges): "They live together (i. e., sexually)
almost indiscriminately in large communities, and though two persons may
be considered as being married, still the tie is only nominal."

The institution of the gens seems to have its origin in the majority of
cases in the Punaluan family. True, the Australian class system also
offers a starting point for it; the Australians have gentes, but not yet
a Punaluan family, only a cruder form of group marriage.[15]

In all forms of the group family it is uncertain who is the father of a
child, but certain, who is its mother. Although she calls all the
children of the aggregate family her children and has the duties of a
mother toward them, still she knows her natural children from others.
It is also obvious that, as far as group marriage exists, descent can
only be traced on the mother's side and, hence, only female lineage be
acknowledged. This is actually the case among all savage tribes and
those in the lower stage of barbarism. To have discovered this first is
the second great merit of Bachofen. He designates this exclusive
recognition of descent from the female line and the hereditary relations
resulting therefrom in course of time as "maternal law." I retain this
term for the sake of brevity, although it is distorted; for at this
social stage there is no sign yet of any law in the juridic sense.

If we now take one of the two standard groups of a Punaluan family,
namely that of a series of natural and remote sisters (i. e., first,
second and more remote descendants of natural sisters), their children
and their natural or remote brothers on the mother's side (who according
to our supposition are not their husbands), we have exactly that circle
of persons who later appear as members of a gens, in the original form
of this institution. They all have a common ancestress, by virtue of the
descent that makes the different female generations sisters. But the
husbands of these sisters cannot be chosen among their brothers any
more, can no longer come from the same ancestress, and do not,
therefore, belong to the consanguineous group of relatives, the gens of
a later time. The children of these same sisters, however, do belong to
this group, because descent from the female line alone is conclusive,
alone is positive. As soon as the proscription of sexual intercourse
between all relatives on the mother's side, even the most remote of
them, is an accomplished fact, the above named group has become a gens,
i. e., constitutes a definite circle of consanguineous relatives of
female lineage who are not permitted to marry one another. Henceforth
this circle is more and more fortified by other mutual institutions of
a social or religious character and thus distinguished from other gentes
of the same tribe. Of this more anon.

Finding, as we do, that the gens not only necessarily, but also as a
matter of course, develops from the Punaluan family, it becomes obvious
to us to assume as almost practically demonstrated the prior existence
of this family form among all those nations where such gentes are
traceable, i. e., nearly all barbarian and civilized nations.

When Morgan wrote his book, our knowledge of group marriage was very
limited. We knew very little about the group marriages of the
Australians organized in classes, and furthermore Morgan had published
as early as 1871 the information he had received about the Punaluan
family of Hawaii. This family on one hand furnished a complete
explanation of the system of kinship in force among the American
Indians, which had been the point of departure for all the studies of
Morgan. On the other hand it formed a ready means for the deduction of
the maternal law gens. And finally it represented a far higher stage of
development than the Australian classes.

It is, therefore, easy to understand how Morgan could regard this form
as the stage necessarily preceding the pairing family and attribute
general extension in former times to it. Since then we have learned of
several other forms of the group marriage, and we know that Morgan went
too far in this respect. But it was nevertheless his good fortune to
encounter in his Punaluan family the highest, the classical, form of
group marriage, that form which gave the simplest clue for the
transition to a higher stage.

The most essential contribution to our knowledge of the group marriage
we owe to the English missionary, Lorimer Fison, who studied this form
of the family for years on its classical ground, Australia. He found
the lowest stage of development among the Papuans near Mount Gambier in
South Australia. Here the whole tribe is divided into two great classes,
Kroki and Kumite.[16] Sexual intercourse within each of these classes is
strictly prohibited. But every man of one class is by birth the husband
of every woman of the other class, and vice versa. Not the individuals
are married to one another, but the whole groups, class to class. And
mark well, no caution is made anywhere on account of difference of age
or special consanguinity, unless it is resulting from the division into
two exogamous classes. A Kroki has for his wife every Kumite woman. And
as his own daughter, being the daughter of a Kumite woman, is also
Kumite according to maternal law, she is therefore the born wife of
every Kroki, including her father. At least, the class organization, as
we know it, does not exclude this possibility. Hence this organization
either arose at a time when, in spite of all dim endeavor to limit
inbreeding, sexual intercourse between parents and children was not yet
regarded with any particular horror; in this case the class system would
be directly evolved from a condition of unrestricted sexual relations.
Or the intercourse between parents and children was already proscribed
by custom, when the classes were formed; and in this case the present
condition points back to the consanguine family and is the first step
out of it. The latter case is the more probable. So far as I know, no
mention is made of any sexual intercourse between parents and children
in Australia. Even the later form of exogamy, the maternal law gens, as
a rule silently presupposes that the prohibition of this intercourse
was an accomplished fact at the time of its institution.

The system of two classes is not only found near Mount Gambier in South
Australia, but also farther east along Darling River, and in the
northeast of Queensland. It is, consequently, widespread. It excludes
only marriage between brothers and sisters, between brothers' children
and between sisters' children of the mother's side, because these belong
to the same class; but the children of a sister can marry those of a
brother and vice versa. A further step for preventing inbreeding is
found among the Kamilaroi on the Darling River in New South Wales, where
the two original classes are split into four, and every one of these is
married as a whole to a certain other class. The first two classes are
husbands and wives by birth. According to the place of the mother in the
first or second class, the children belong to the third and fourth. The
children of these two classes, who are also married to one another,
again belong to the first and second class. So that a certain generation
belongs to the first and second class, the next to the third and fourth
and the following again to the first and second. Hence the children of
natural brothers and sisters (on the mother's side) cannot marry one
another, but their grandchildren can do so. This peculiarly complicated
order of things is still more entangled by the inoculation--evidently at
a later stage--with maternal law gentes. But we cannot discuss this
further. Enough, the desire to prevent inbreeding again and again
demands recognition, but feeling its way quite spontaneously, without a
clear conception of the goal.

The group marriage is represented in Australia by class marriage, i. e.,
mass marriage of a whole class of men frequently scattered over the
whole breadth of the continent to an equally widespread class of women.
A close view of this group marriage does not offer quite such a horrible
spectacle as the philistine imagination accustomed to brothel conditions
generally pictures to itself. On the contrary, long years passed, before
its existence was even suspected, and quite recently it is once more
denied. To the casual observer it makes the impression of a loose
monogamy and in certain places of polygamy, with occasional breach of
faith. Years are required before one can discover, like Fison and
Howitt, the law regulating these marital conditions that rather appeal
in their practicability to the average European; the law enabling the
strange Papuan, thousands of miles from his home and among people whose
language he does not understand, to find frequently, from camp to camp
and from tribe to tribe, women who will without resistance and
guilelessly surrender to him; the law according to which a man with
several women offers one to his guest for the night. Where the European
sees immorality and lawlessness, there in reality a strict law is
observed. The women belong to the marriage class of the stranger and,
therefore, they are his wives by birth. The same moral law assigning
both to one another forbids under penalty of proscription all sexual
intercourse outside of the two marriage classes. Even when women are
abducted, as is frequently the case in certain regions, the class law is
carefully respected.

In the abduction of women, by the way, a trace of transition to monogamy
is found even here, at least in the form of the pairing family. If a
young man has abducted a girl with the help of his friends, they hold
sexual intercourse with her one after another. But after that the girl
is regarded as the wife of the young man who planned the abduction. And
again, if an abducted woman deserts her husband and is caught by another
man, she becomes the wife of the latter and the first has lost his
privilege. Alongside of and within the generally existing group marriage
such exclusive relations are formed, pairing for a shorter or longer
term by the side of polygamy, so that here also group marriage is
declining. The question is only which will first disappear under the
pressure of European influence: group marriage or the Papuans addicted
to it.

The marriage in whole classes, such as is in force in Australia, is no
doubt a very low and primitive form of group marriage, while the
Punaluan family, so far as we know, is its highest stage of development.
The former seems to be corresponding to the social stage of roving
savages, the latter requires relatively settled communistic bodies and
leads directly to the next higher stage of development. Between these
two, we shall no doubt find many an intermediate stage. Here lies a
barely opened, hardly entered field of investigation.[17]


A certain pairing for a longer or shorter term took place even during
the group marriage or still earlier. A man had his principal wife (one
can hardly call it favorite wife as yet) among many women, and he was to
her the principal husband among others. This fact in no small degree
contributed to the confusion among missionaries, who regarded group
marriage now as a disorderly community of women, now as an arbitrary
adultery. Such a habitual pairing would gain ground the more the gens
developed and the more numerous the classes of "brothers" and "sisters"
became who were not permitted to marry one another. The impulse to
prevent marriage of consanguineous relatives started by the gens went
still further. Thus we find that among the Iroquois and most of the
Indians in the lower stage of barbarism marriage is prohibited between
all the relatives of their system of kinship, and this comprises several
hundred kinds. By this increasing complication of marriage restrictions,
group marriage became more and more impossible; it was displaced by the
pairing family. At this stage one man lives with one woman, but in such
a manner that polygamy, and occasional adultery, remain privileges of
men, although the former occurs rarely for economic reasons. Women,
however, are generally expected to be strictly faithful during the time
of living together, and adultery on their part is cruelly punished. But
the marriage-tie may be easily broken by either party, and the children
belong to the mother alone, as formerly.

In this ever more extending restriction of marriage between
consanguineous relations, natural selection also remains effective. As
Morgan expresses it: "Marriages between gentes that were not
consanguineous produced a more vigorous race, physically and mentally;
two progressive tribes intermarried, and the new skulls and brains
naturally expanded until they comprised the faculties of both." Thus
tribes composed of gentes necessarily either gained the supremacy over
the backward ones or, by their example, carried them along in their

The development of the family, then, is founded on the continual
contraction of the circle, originally comprising the whole tribe, within
which marital intercourse between both sexes was general. By the
continual, exclusion, first of near, then of ever remoter relatives,
including finally even those who were simply related legally, all group
marriage becomes practically impossible. At last only one couple,
temporarily and loosely united, remains; that molecule, the dissolution
of which absolutely puts an end to marriage. Even from this we may infer
how little the sexual love of the individual in the modern sense of the
word had to do with the origin of monogamy. The practice of all nations
of that stage still more proves this. While in the previous form of the
family the men were never embarrassed for women, but rather had more
than enough of them, women now became scarce and were sought after. With
the pairing family, therefore, the abduction and barter of women
began--widespread symptoms, and nothing but that, of a new and much more
profound change. The pedantic Scot, McLennan, however, transmuted these
symptoms, mere methods of obtaining women, into separate classes of the
family under the head of "marriage by capture" and "marriage by barter."
Moreover among American Indians and other nations in the same stage, the
marriage agreement is not the business of the parties most concerned,
who often are not even asked, but of their mothers. Frequently two
persons entirely unknown to one another are thus engaged to be married
and receive no information of the closing of the bargain, until the time
for the marriage ceremony approaches. Before the wedding, the bridegroom
brings gifts to the maternal relatives of the bride (not to her father
or his relatives) as an equivalent for ceding the girl to him. Either of
the married parties may dissolve the marriage at will. But among many
tribes, as, e. g., the Iroquois, public opinion has gradually become
averse to such separations. In case of domestic differences the gentile
relatives of both parties endeavor to bring about a reconciliation, and
not until they are unsuccessful a separation takes place. In this case
the woman keeps the children, and both parties are free to marry again.

The pairing family, being too weak and too unstable to make an
independent household necessary or even desirable, in no way dissolves
the traditional communistic way of housekeeping. But household communism
implies supremacy of women in the house as surely as exclusive
recognition of a natural mother and the consequent impossibility of
identifying the natural father signify high esteem for women, i. e.,
mothers. It is one of the most absurd notions derived from eighteenth
century enlightenment, that in the beginning of society woman was the
slave of man. Among all savages and barbarians of the lower and middle
stages, sometimes even of the higher stage, women not only have freedom,
but are held in high esteem. What they were even in the pairing family,
let Arthur Wright, for many years a missionary among the Seneca
Iroquois, testify: "As to their families, at a time when they still
lived in their old long houses (communistic households of several
families) ... a certain clan (gens) always reigned, so that the women
choose their husbands from other clans (gentes).... The female part
generally ruled the house; the provisions were held in common; but woe
to the luckless husband or lover who was too indolent or too clumsy to
contribute his share to the common stock. No matter how many children or
how much private property he had in the house, he was liable at any
moment to receive a hint to gather up his belongings and get out. And he
could not dare to venture any resistance; the house was made too hot for
him and he had no other choice, but to return to his own clan (gens) or,
as was mostly the case, to look for another wife in some other clan. The
women were the dominating power in the clans (gentes) and everywhere
else. Occasionally they did not hesitate to dethrone a chief and degrade
him to a common warrior."

The communistic household, in which most or all the women belong to one
and the same gens, while the husbands come from different gentes, is the
cause and foundation of the general and widespread supremacy of women in
primeval times. The discovery of this fact is the third merit of

By way of supplement I wish to state that the reports of travelers and
missionaries concerning the overburdening of women among savages and
barbarians do not in the least contradict the above statements. The
division of labor between both sexes is caused by other reasons than the
social condition of women. Nations, where women have to work much harder
than is proper for them in our opinion, often respect women more highly
than Europeans do. The lady of civilized countries, surrounded with sham
homage and a stranger to all real work stands on a far lower social
level than a hard-working barbarian woman, regarded as a real lady
(frowa-lady-mistress) and having the character of such.

Whether or not the pairing family has in our time entirely supplanted
group marriage in America, can be decided only by closer investigations
among those nations of northwestern and especially of southern America
that are still in the higher stage of savagery. About the latter so many
reports of sexual license are current that the assumption of a complete
cessation of the ancient group marriage is hardly warranted. Evidently
all traces of it have not yet disappeared. In at least forty North
American tribes the man marrying an elder sister has the right to make
all her sisters his wives as soon as they are of age, a survival of the
community of men for the whole series of sisters. And Bancroft relates
that the Indians of the Californian peninsula celebrate certain
festivities uniting several "tribes" for the purpose of unrestricted
sexual intercourse. These are evidently gentes that have preserved in
these festivities a vague recollection of the time when the women of one
gens had for their common husbands all the men of another gens, and vice
versa. The same custom is still observed in Australia. Among certain
nations it sometimes happens that the older men, the chief and
sorcerer-priests, exploit the community of women for their own benefits
and monopolize all the women. But in their turn they must restore the
old community during certain festivities and great assemblies,
permitting their wives to enjoy themselves with the young men. A whole
series of examples of such periodical saturnalia restoring for a short
time the ancient sexual freedom is quoted by Westermarck:[18] among the
Hos, the Santals, the Punjas and Kotars in India, among some African
nations, etc. Curiously enough Westermarck concludes that this is a
survival, not of group marriage, the existence of which he denies,
but--of a rutting season which primitive man had in common with other

Here we touch Bachofen's fourth great discovery: the widespread form of
transition from group marriage to pairing family. What Bachofen
represents as a penance for violating the old divine laws--the penalty
with which a woman redeems her right to chastity, is in fact only a
mystical expression for the penalty paid by a woman for becoming exempt
from the ancient community of men and acquiring the right of
surrendering to one man only. This penalty consists in a limited
surrender: Babylonian women had to surrender once a year in the temple
of Mylitta; other nations of Western Asia sent their young women for
years to the temple of Anaitis, where they had to practice free love
with favorites of their own choice before they were allowed to marry.
Similar customs in a religious disguise are common to nearly all Asiatic
nations between the Mediterranean and the Ganges. The penalty for
exemption becomes gradually lighter in course of time, as Bachofen
remarks: "The annually repeated surrender gives place to a single
sacrifice; the hetaerism of the matrons is followed by that of the
maidens, the promiscuous intercourse during marriage to that before
wedding, the indiscriminate intercourse with all to that with certain
individuals."[19] Among some nations the religious disguise is missing.
Among others--Thracians, Celts, etc., in classic times, many primitive
inhabitants of India, Malay nations, South Sea Islanders and many
American Indians to this day--the girls enjoy absolute sexual freedom
before marriage. This is especially true almost everywhere in South
America, as everybody can confirm who penetrates a little into the
interior. Agassiz, e. g., relates[20] an anecdote of a wealthy family of
Indian descent. On being introduced to the daughter he asked something
about her father, presuming him to be her mother's husband, who was in
the war against Paraguay. But the mother replied, smiling: "Nao tem pai,
he filha da fortuna"--she hasn't any father; she is the daughter of
chance. "It is the way the Indian or half-breed women here always speak
of their illegitimate children; and though they say it without an
intonation of sadness or of blame, apparently as unconscious of any
wrong or shame as if they said the father was absent or dead, it has the
most melancholy significance; it seems to speak of such absolute
desertion. So far is this from being an unusual case, that among the
common people the opposite seems the exception. Children are frequently
quite ignorant of their parentage. They know about their mother, for all
the care and responsibility falls upon her, but they have no knowledge
of their father; nor does it seem to occur to the woman that she or her
children have any claim upon him." What seems so strange to the
civilized man, is simply the rule of maternal law and group marriage.

Again, among other nations the friends and relatives of the bridegroom
or the wedding guests claim their traditional right to the bride, and
the bridegroom comes last. This custom prevailed in ancient times on the
Baleares and among the African Augilers; it is observed to this day by
the Bareas in Abyssinia. In still other cases, an official person--the
chief of a tribe or a gens, the cazique, shamane, priest, prince or
whatever may be his title--represents the community and exercises the
right of the first night. All modern romantic whitewashing
notwithstanding, this jus primae noctis, is still in force among most of
the natives of Alaska,[21] among the Tahus of northern Mexico[22] and
some other nations. And during the whole of the middle ages it was
practiced at least in originally Celtic countries, where it was directly
transmitted by group marriage, e. g. in Aragonia. While in Castilia the
peasant was never a serf, the most disgraceful serfdom existed in
Aragonia, until abolished by the decision of Ferdinand the Catholic in
1486. In this document we read: "We decide and declare that the
aforesaid 'senyors' (barons) ... shall neither sleep the first night
with the wife of a peasant, nor shall they in the first night after the
wedding, when the woman has gone to bed, step over said woman or bed as
a sign of their authority. Neither shall the aforesaid senyors use the
daughter or the son of any peasant, with or without pay, against their
will." (Quoted in the Catalonian original by Sugenheim, "Serfdom,"
Petersburg, 1861, page 35.)

Bachofen, furthermore, is perfectly right in contending that the
transition from what he calls "hetaerism" or "incestuous generation" to
monogamy was brought about mainly by women. The more in the course of
economic development, undermining the old communism and increasing the
density of population, the traditional sexual relations lost their
innocent character suited to the primitive forest, the more debasing and
oppressive they naturally appeared to women; and the more they
consequently longed for relief by the right of chastity, of temporary or
permanent marriage with one man. This progress could not be due to men
for the simple reason that they never, even to this day, had the least
intention of renouncing the pleasures of actual group marriage. Not
until the women had accomplished the transition to the pairing family
could the men introduce strict monogamy--true, only for women.

The pairing family arose on the boundary line between savagery and
barbarism, generally in the higher stage of savagery, here and there in
the lower stage of barbarism. It is the form of the family
characteristic for barbarism, as group marriage is for savagery and
monogamy for civilization. In order to develop it into established
monogamy, other causes than those active hitherto were required. In the
pairing family the group was already reduced to its last unit, its
biatomic molecule: one man and one woman. Natural selection, had
accomplished its purpose by a continually increasing restriction of
sexual intercourse. Nothing remained to be done in this direction.
Unless new social forces became active, there was no reason why a new
form of the family should develop out of the pairing family. But these
forces did become active.

We now leave America, the classic soil of the pairing family. No sign
permits the conclusion that a higher form of the family was developed
here, that any established form of monogamy ever existed anywhere in the
New World before the discovery and conquest. Not so in the Old World.

In the latter, the domestication of animals and the breeding of flocks
had developed a hitherto unknown source of wealth and created entirely
new social conditions. Up to the lower stage of barbarism, fixed wealth
was almost exclusively represented by houses, clothing, rough ornaments
and the tools for obtaining and preparing food: boats, weapons and
household articles of the simplest kind. Nourishment had to be secured
afresh day by day. But now, with their herds of horses, camels, donkeys,
cattle, sheep, goats and hogs, the advancing nomadic nations--the Aryans
in the Indian Punjab, in the region of the Ganges and the steppes of the
Oxus and Jaxartes, then still more rich in water-veins than now; the
Semites on the Euphrates and Tigris--had acquired possessions demanding
only the most crude attention and care in order to propagate themselves
in ever increasing numbers and yield the most abundant store of milk and
meat. All former means of obtaining food were now forced to the
background. Hunting, once a necessity, now became a sport.

But who was the owner of this new wealth? Doubtless it was originally
the gens. However, private ownership of flocks must have had an early
beginning. It is difficult to say whether to the author of the so-called
first book of Moses Father Abraham appeared as the owner of his flocks
by virtue of his privilege as head of a communistic family or of his
capacity as gentile chief by actual descent. So much is certain: we
must not regard him as a proprietor in the modern sense of the word. It
is furthermore certain that everywhere on the threshold of documentary
history we find the flocks in the separate possession of chiefs of
families, exactly like the productions of barbarian art, such as metal
ware, articles of luxury and, finally, the human cattle--the slaves.

For now slavery was also invented. To the barbarian of the lower stage a
slave was of no use. The American Indians, therefore, treated their
vanquished enemies in quite a different way from nations of a higher
stage. The men were tortured or adopted as brothers into the tribe of
the victors. The women were married or likewise adopted with their
surviving children. The human labor power at this stage does not yet
produce a considerable amount over and above its cost of subsistence.
But the introduction of cattle raising, metal industry, weaving and
finally agriculture wrought a change. Just as the once easily obtainable
wives now had an exchange value and were bought, so labor power was now
procured, especially since the flocks had definitely become private
property. The family did not increase as rapidly as the cattle. More
people were needed for superintending; for this purpose the captured
enemy was available and, besides, he could be increased by breeding like
the cattle.

Such riches, once they had become the private property of certain
families and augmented rapidly, gave a powerful impulse to society
founded on the pairing family and the maternal gens. The pairing family
had introduced a new element. By the side of the natural mother it had
placed the authentic natural father who probably was better
authenticated than many a "father" of our day. According to the division
of labor in those times, the task of obtaining food and the tools
necessary for this purpose fell to the share of the man; hence he owned
the latter and kept them in case of a separation, as the women did the
household goods. According to the social custom of that time, the man
was also the owner of the new source of existence, the cattle, and later
on of the new labor power, the slaves. But according to the same custom,
his children could not inherit his property, for the following reasons:
By maternal law, i. e., while descent was traced only along the female
line, and by the original custom of inheriting in the gens, the gentile
relatives inherited the property of their deceased gentile relative. The
wealth had to remain in the gens. In view of the insignificance of the
objects, the property may have gone in practice to the closest gentile
relatives, i. e., the consanguine relatives on the mother's side. The
children of the dead man, however, did not belong to his gens, but to
that of their mother. They inherited first together with the other
consanguine relatives of the mother, later on perhaps in preference to
the others. But they could not inherit from their father, because they
did not belong to his gens, where his property had to remain. Hence,
after the death of a cattle owner, the cattle would fall to his
brothers, sisters and the children of his sisters, or to the offspring
of the sisters of his mother. His own children were disinherited.

In the measure of the increasing wealth man's position in the family
became superior to that of woman, and the desire arose to use this
fortified position for the purpose of overthrowing the traditional law
of inheritance in favor of his children. But this was not feasible as
long as maternal law was valid. This law had to be abolished, and it
was. This was by no means as difficult as it appears to us to-day. For
this revolution--one of the most radical ever experienced by
humanity--did not have to touch a single living member of the gens. All
its members could remain what they had always been. The simple
resolution was sufficient, that henceforth the offspring of the male
members should belong to the gens, while the children of the female
members should be excluded by transferring them to the gens of their
father. This abolished the tracing of descent by female lineage and the
maternal right of inheritance, and instituted descent by male lineage
and the paternal right of inheritance. How and when this revolution was
accomplished by the nations of the earth, we do not know. It belongs
entirely to prehistoric times. That it was accomplished is proven more
than satisfactorily by the copious traces of maternal law collected
especially by Bachofen. How easily it is accomplished we may observe in
a whole series of Indian tribes, that recently passed through or are
still engaged in it, partly under the influence of increasing wealth and
changed modes of living (transfer from forests to the prairie), partly
through the moral pressure of civilization and missionaries. Six out of
eight Missouri tribes have male descent and inheritance, while only two
retain female descent and inheritance. The Shawnees, Miamis and
Delawares follow the custom of placing their children into the male gens
by giving them a gentile name belonging to the father's gens, so that
they may be entitled to inherit. "Innate casuistry of man, to change the
objects by changing their names, and to find loopholes for breaking
tradition inside of tradition where a direct interest was a sufficient
motive." (Marx.) This made confusion worse confounded, which could be
and partially was remedied alone by paternal law. "This seems to be the
most natural transition." (Marx.) As to the opinion of the comparative
jurists, how this transition took place among the civilized nations of
the old world--although only in hypotheses--compare M. Kovalevsky,
Tableau des origines et de l'évolution de la famille et de la
propriété, Stockholm, 1890.

The downfall of maternal law was the historic defeat of the female sex.
The men seized the reins also in the house, the women were stripped of
their dignity, enslaved, tools of men's lust and mere machines for the
generation of children. This degrading position of women, especially
conspicuous among the Greeks of heroic and still more of classic times,
was gradually glossed over and disguised or even clad in a milder form.
But it is by no means obliterated.

The first effect of the established supremacy of men became now visible
in the reappearance of the intermediate form of the patriarchal family.
Its most significant feature is not polygamy, of which more anon, but
"the organization of a certain number of free and unfree persons into
one family under the paternal authority of the head of the family. In
the Semitic form this head of the family lives in polygamy, the unfree
members have wife and children, and the purpose of the whole
organization is the tending of herds in a limited territory." The
essential points are the assimilation of the unfree element and the
paternal authority. Hence the ideal type of this form of the family is
the Roman family. The word familia did not originally signify the
composite ideal of sentimentality and domestic strife in the present day
philistine mind. Among the Romans it did not even apply in the beginning
to the leading couple and its children, but to the slaves alone. Famulus
means domestic slave, and familia is the aggregate number of slaves
belonging to one man. At the time of Gajus, the familia, id est
patrimonium (i. e., paternal legacy), was still bequeathed by testament.
The expression was invented by the Romans in order to designate a new
social organism, the head of which had a wife, children and a number of
slaves under his paternal authority and according to Roman law the
right of life and death over all of them. "The word is, therefore, not
older than the ironclad family system of the Latin tribes, which arose
after the introduction of agriculture and of lawful slavery, and after
the separation of the Aryan Itali from the Greeks." Marx adds: "The
modern family contains the germ not only of slavery (servitus), but also
of serfdom, because it has from the start a relation to agricultural
service. It comprises in miniature all those contrasts that later on
develop more broadly in society and the state."

Such a form of the family shows the transition from the pairing family
to monogamy. In order to secure the faithfulness of the wife, and hence
the reliability of paternal lineage, the women are delivered absolutely
into the power of the men; in killing his wife, the husband simply
exercises his right.

With the patriarchal family we enter the domain of written history, a
field in which comparative law can render considerable assistance. And
here it has brought about considerable progress indeed. We owe to Maxim
Kovalevsky (Tableau etc. de la famille et de la propriété, Stockholm,
1890, p. 60-100) the proof, that the patriarchal household community,
found to this day among Serbians and Bulgarians under the names of
Zádruga (friendly bond) and Bratstvo (fraternity), and in a modified
form among oriental nations, formed the stage of transition between the
maternal family derived from group marriage and the monogamous family of
the modern world. This seems at least established for the historic
nations of the old world, for Aryans and Semites.

The Zádruga of southern Slavonia offers the best still existing
illustration of such a family communism. It comprises several
generations of the father's descendants, together with their wives, all
living together on the same farm, tilling their fields in common,
living and clothing themselves from the same stock, and possessing
collectively the surplus of their earnings. The community is managed by
the master of the house (domácin), who acts as its representative, may
sell inferior objects, has charge of the treasury and is responsible for
it as well as for a proper business administration. He is chosen by vote
and is not necessarily the oldest man. The women and their work are
directed by the mistress of the house (domácica), who is generally the
wife of the domácin. She also has an important, and often final, voice
in choosing a husband for the girls. But the highest authority is vested
in the family council, the assembly of all grown companions, male and
female. The domácin is responsible to this council. It takes all
important resolutions, sits in judgment on the members of the household,
decides the question of important purchases and sales, especially of
land, etc.

It is only about ten years since the existence of such family communism
in the Russia of to-day was proven. At present it is generally
acknowledged to be rooted in popular Russian custom quite as much as the
obscina or village community.

It is found in the oldest Russian code, the Pravda of Jaroslav, under
the same name (vervj) as in the Dalmatian code, and may also be traced
in Polish and Czech historical records.

Likewise among Germans, the economic unit according to Heussler
(Institutions of German law) is not originally the single family, but
the "collective household," comprising several generations or single
families and, besides, often enough unfree individuals. The Roman family
is also traced to this type, and hence the absolute authority of the
master of the house and the defenselessness of the other members in
regard to him is strongly questioned of late. Similar communities are
furthermore said to have existed among the Celts of Ireland. In France
they were preserved up to the time of the Revolution in Nivernais under
the name of "parçonneries," and in the Franche Comté they are not quite
extinct yet. In the region of Louhans (Saône et Loire) we find large
farmhouses with a high central hall for common use reaching up to the
roof and surrounded by sleeping rooms accessible by the help of stairs
with six to eight steps. Several generations of the same family live
together in such a house.

In India, the household community with collective agriculture is already
mentioned by Nearchus at the time of Alexander the Great, and it exists
to this day in the same region, in the Punjab and the whole Northwest of
the country. In the Caucasus it was located by Kovalevski himself.

In Algeria it is still found among the Kabyles. Even in America it is
said to have existed. It is supposed to be identical with the
"Calpullis" described by Zurita in ancient Mexico. In Peru, however,
Cunow (Ausland, 1890, No. 42-44) has demonstrated rather clearly that at
the time of the conquest a sort of a constitution in marks (called
curiously enough marca), with a periodical allotment of arable soil, and
consequently individual tillage, was in existence.

At any rate, the patriarchal household community with collective tillage
and ownership of land now assumes an entirely different meaning than
heretofore. We can no longer doubt that it played an important role
among the civilized and some other nations of the old world in the
transition from the maternal to the single family. Later on we shall
return to Kovaleski's further conclusion that it was also the stage of
transition from which developed the village or mark community with
individual tillage and first periodical, then permanent allotment of
arable and pasture lands.

In regard to the family life within these household communities it must
be remarked that at least in Russia the master of the house has the
reputation of strongly abusing his position against the younger women of
the community, especially his daughters-in-law, and of transforming them
into a harem for himself. Russian popular songs are very eloquent on
this point.

Before taking up monogamy, which rapidly developed after the downfall of
maternal law, let me say a few words about polygamy and polyandry. Both
forms of the family can only be exceptions, historical products of
luxury so to speak, unless they could be found side by side in the same
country, which is apparently not the case. As the men excluded from
polygamy cannot find consolation in the women left over by polyandry,
the number of men and women being hitherto approximately equal without
regard to social institutions, it becomes of itself impossible to confer
on any one of these two forms the distinction of general preference.
Indeed, the polygamy of one man was evidently the product of slavery,
confined to certain exceptional positions. In the Semitic patriarchal
family, only the patriarch himself, or at best a few of his sons,
practice polygamy, the others must be satisfied with one wife. This is
the case to-day in the whole Orient. Polygamy is a privilege of the
wealthy and distinguished, and is mainly realized by purchase of female
slaves. The mass of the people live in monogamy. Polyandry in India and
Thibet is likewise an exception. Its surely not uninteresting origin
from group marriage requires still closer investigation. In its practice
it seems, by the way, much more tolerant than the jealous Harem
establishment of the Mohammedans. At least among the Nairs of India,
three, four or more men have indeed one woman in common; but every one
of them may have a second woman in common with three or more other men;
and in the same way a third, fourth, etc. It is strange that McLennan
did not discover the new class of "club marriage" in these marital
clubs, in several of which one may be a member and which he himself
describes. This marriage club business is, however, by no means actual
polyandry. It is on the contrary, as Giraud-Teulon already remarks, a
specialized form of group marriage. The men live in polygamy, the women
in polyandry.


It develops from the pairing family, as we have already shown, during
the time of transition from the middle to the higher stage of barbarism.
Its final victory is one of the signs of beginning civilization. It is
founded on male supremacy for the pronounced purpose of breeding
children of indisputable paternal lineage. The latter is required,
because these children shall later on inherit the fortune of their
father. The monogamous family is distinguished from the pairing family
by the far greater durability of wedlock, which can no longer be
dissolved at the pleasure of either party. As a rule, it is only the man
who can still dissolve it and cast off his wife. The privilege of
conjugal faithlessness remains sanctioned for men at least by custom
(the Code Napoleon concedes it directly to them, as long as they do not
bring their concubines into the houses of their wives). This privilege
is more and more enjoyed with the increasing development of society. If
the woman remembers the ancient sexual practices and attempts to revive
them, she is punished more severely than ever.

The whole severity of this new form of the family confronts us among the
Greeks. While, as Marx observes, the position of the female gods in
mythology shows an earlier period, when women still occupied a freer
and more respected plane, we find woman already degraded by the
supremacy of man and the competition of slaves during the time of the
heroes. Read in the Odysseia how Telemachos reproves and silences his
mother. The captured young women, according to Homer, are delivered to
the sensual lust of the victors. The leaders in the order of their rank
select the most beautiful captives. The whole Iliad notoriously revolves
around the quarrel between Achilles and Agamemnon about such a captured
woman. In mentioning any hero of importance, the captured girl sharing
his tent and bed is never omitted. These girls are also taken into the
hero's home country and his house, as Kassandra by Agamemnon in
Aeschylos. Boys born by these female slaves receive a small share of the
paternal heirloom and are regarded as free men. Teukros is such an
illegitimate son and may use his father's name. The wife is expected to
put up with everything, while herself remaining chaste and faithful.
Although the Greek woman of heroic times is more highly respected than
she of the civilized period, still she is for her husband only the
mother of his legal heirs, his first housekeeper and the superintendent
of the female slaves, whom he can and does make his concubines at will.

It is this practice of slavery by the side of monogamy, the existence of
young and beautiful female slaves belonging without any restriction to
their master, which from the very beginning gives to monogamy the
specific character of being monogamy for women only, but not for men.
And this character remains to this day.

For the Greeks of later times we must make a distinction between Dorians
and Ionians. The former, with Sparta as their classic example, have in
many respects still more antiquated marriage customs than even Homer
illustrates. In Sparta existed a form of the pairing family modified by
the contemporaneous ideas of the state and still recalling group
marriage in many ways. Sterile marriages were dissolved. King
Anaxandridas (about 650 before Christ) took another wife besides his
childless one and kept two households. About the same time King Ariston
added another wife to two childless ones, one of which he dismissed.
Furthermore, several brothers could have one wife in common; a friend
who liked his friend's wife better than his own could share her with
him, and it was not considered indecent to place a wife at the disposal
of a sturdy "stallion," as Bismarck would have said, even though he
might not be a citizen. A certain passage in Plutarch, where a Spartan
matron refers a lover, who persists in making offers to her, to her
husband, seems to indicate--according to Schoemann--even a still greater
sexual freedom. Also adultery, faithlessness of a wife behind her
husband's back, was unheard of. On the other hand, domestic slavery in
Sparta, at least during the best time, was unknown, and the serf Helots
lived on separate country seats. Hence there was less temptation for a
Spartan to hold intercourse with other women. As was to be expected
under such circumstances, the women of Sparta occupied a more highly
respected place than those of other Greeks. Spartan women and the
Athenian hetaerae were the only Greek women of whom the ancients speak
respectfully and whose remarks they considered worthy of notice.

Quite a different condition among Ionians, whose representative is
Athens. The girls learned only to spin, weave and sew, at the most a
little reading and writing. They were practically shut in and had only
the company of other women.

The women's room formed a separate part of the house, on the upper floor
or in a rear building, where men, especially strangers, did not easily
enter and whither the women retreated when male visitors came. The
women did not leave the house without being accompanied by a female
slave. At home they were strictly guarded. Aristophanes speaks of
Molossian dogs that were kept to frighten off adulterers. And at least
in the Asiatic towns, eunuchs were kept for guarding women. Even at
Herodotus' time these eunuchs were manufactured for the trade, and
according to Wachsmuth not for barbarians alone. By Euripides woman is
designated as "oikurema," a neuter signifying an object for
housekeeping, and beside the business of breeding children she served to
the Athenian for nothing but his chief house maid. The man had his
gymnastic exercises, his public meetings, from which the women were
excluded. Besides, the man very often had female slaves at his disposal,
and during the most flourishing time of Athens an extensive prostitution
which was at least patronized by the state. It was precisely on the
basis of this prostitution that the unique type of Ionic women
developed; the hetaerae. They rose by esprit and artistic taste as far
above the general level of antique womanhood as the Spartan women by
their character. But that it was necessary to become a hetaera before
one could be a woman, constitutes the severest denunciation of the
Athenian family.

The Athenian family became in the course of time the model after which
not only the rest of the Ionians, but gradually all the Greeks at home
and abroad molded their domestic relations. Nevertheless, in spite of
all seclusion and watching, the Grecian ladies found sufficient
opportunity for deceiving their husbands. The latter who would have been
ashamed of betraying any love for their wives, found recreation in all
kinds of love affairs with hetaerae. But the degradation of the women
was avenged in the men and degraded them also, until they sank into the
abomination of boy-love. They degraded their gods and themselves by the
myth of Ganymedes.

Such was the origin of monogamy, as far as we may trace it in the most
civilized and most highly developed nation of antiquity. It was by no
means a fruit of individual sex-love and had nothing to do with the
latter, for the marriages remained as conventional as ever. Monogamy was
the first form of the family not founded on natural, but on economic
conditions, viz.: the victory of private property over primitive and
natural collectivism. Supremacy of the man in the family and generation
of children that could be his offspring alone and were destined to be
the heirs of his wealth--these were openly avowed by the Greeks to be
the sole objects of monogamy. For the rest it was a burden to them, a
duty to the gods, the state and their own ancestors, a duty to be
fulfilled and no more. In Athens the law enforced not only the marriage,
but also the fulfillment of a minimum of the so-called matrimonial
duties on the man's part.

Monogamy, then, does by no means enter history as a reconciliation of
man and wife and still less as the highest form of marriage. On the
contrary, it enters as the subjugation of one sex by the other, as the
proclamation of an antagonism between the sexes unknown in all preceding
history. In an old unpublished manuscript written by Marx and myself in
1846, I find the following passage: "The first division of labor is that
of man and wife in breeding children." And to-day I may add: The first
class antagonism appearing in history coincides with the development of
the antagonism of man and wife in monogamy, and the first class
oppression with that of the female by the male sex. Monogamy was a great
historical progress. But by the side of slavery and private property it
marks at the same time that epoch which, reaching down to our days,
takes with all progress also a step backwards, relatively speaking, and
develops the welfare and advancement of one by the woe and submission of
the other. It is the cellular form of civilized society which enables us
to study the nature of its now fully developed contrasts and

The old relative freedom of sexual intercourse by no means disappeared
with the victory of the pairing or even of the monogamous family. "The
old conjugal system, now reduced to narrower limits by the gradual
disappearance of the punaluan groups, still environed the advancing
family, which it was to follow to the verge of civilization.... It
finally disappeared in the new form of hetaerism, which still follows
mankind in civilization as a dark shadow upon the family."[23]

By hetaerism Morgan designates sexual intercourse of men with unmarried
women outside of the monogamous family, flourishing, as is well known,
during the whole period of civilization in many different forms and
tending more and more to open prostitution. This hetaerism is directly
derived from group marriage, from the sacrificial surrender of women for
the purpose of obtaining the right to chastity. The surrender for money
was at first a religious act; it took place in the temple of the goddess
of love and the money flowed originally into the treasury of the temple.
The hierodulae of Anaitis in Armenia, of Aphrodite in Corinth and the
religious dancing girls of India attached to the temples, the so-called
bajaderes (derived from the Portuguese "bailadera," dancing girl), were
the first prostitutes. The surrender, originally the duty of every
woman, was later on practiced by these priestesses alone in
representation of all others. Among other nations, hetaerism is derived
from the sexual freedom permitted to girls before marriage--also a
survival of the group marriage, only transmitted by another route. With
the rise of different property relations, in the higher stage of
barbarism, wage labor appears sporadically by the side of slavery, and
at the same time its unavoidable companion, professional prostitution of
free women by the side of the forced surrender of female slaves. It is
the heirloom bequeathed by group marriage to civilization, a gift as
ambiguous as everything else produced by ambiguous, double-faced,
schismatic and contradictory civilization. Here monogamy, there
hetaerism and its most extreme form, prostitution. Hetaerism is as much
a social institution as all others. It continues the old sexual
freedom--for the benefit of the men. In reality not only permitted, but
also assiduously practised by the ruling class, it is denounced only
nominally. Still in practice this denunciation strikes by no means the
men who indulge in it, but only the women. These are ostracised and cast
out by society, in order to proclaim once more the fundamental law of
unconditional male supremacy over the female sex.

However, a second contradiction is thereby developed within monogamy
itself. By the side of the husband, who is making his life pleasant by
hetaerism, stands the neglected wife. And you cannot have one side of
the contradiction without the other, just as you cannot have the whole
apple after eating half of it. Nevertheless this seems to have been the
idea of the men, until their wives taught them a lesson. Monogamy
introduces two permanent social characters that were formerly unknown:
the standing lover of the wife and the cuckold. The men had gained the
victory over the women, but the vanquished magnanimously provided the
coronation. In addition to monogamy and hetaerism, adultery became an
unavoidable social institution--denounced, severely punished, but
irrepressible. The certainty of paternal parentage rested as of old on
moral conviction at best, and in order to solve the unreconcilable
contradiction, the code Napoléon decreed in its article 312: "L'enfant
conçu pendant le mariage a pour pčre le mari;" the child conceived
during marriage has for its father--the husband. This is the last result
of three thousand years of monogamy.

Thus we have in the monogamous family, at least in those cases that
remain true to historical development and clearly express the conflict
between man and wife created by the exclusive supremacy of men, a
miniature picture of the contrasts and contradictions of society at
large. Split by class-differences since the beginning of civilization,
society has been unable to reconcile and overcome these antitheses. Of
course, I am referring here only to those cases of monogamy, where
matrimonial life actually remains in accord with the original character
of the whole institution, but where the wife revolts against the rule of
the man. Nobody knows better than your German philistine that not all
marriages follow such a course. He does not understand how to maintain
the control of his own home any better than that of the State, and his
wife is, therefore, fully entitled to wearing the trousers, which he
does not deserve. But he thinks himself far superior to his French
companion in misery, who more frequently fares far worse.

The monogamous family, by the way, did not everywhere and always appear
in the classic severe form it had among the Greeks. Among the Romans,
who as future conquerors of the world had a sharper although less
refined eye than the Greeks, the women were freer and more respected. A
Roman believed that the conjugal faith of his wife was sufficiently
safeguarded by his power over her life and death. Moreover, the women
could voluntarily dissolve the marriage as well as the men. But the
highest progress in the development of monogamy was doubtless due to the
entrance of the Germans into history, probably because on account of
their poverty their monogamy had not yet fully outgrown the pairing
family. Three facts mentioned by Tacitus favor this conclusion: In the
first place, although marriage was held very sacred--"they are satisfied
with one wife, the women are protected by chastity"--still polygamy was
in use among the distinguished and the leaders of the tribes, as was the
case in the pairing families of the American Indians. Secondly, the
transition from maternal to paternal law could have taken place only a
short while before, because the mother's brother--the next male relative
in the gens by maternal law--was still considered almost a closer
relative than the natural father, also in accordance with the standpoint
of the American Indians. The latter furnished to Marx, according to his
own testimony, the key to the comprehension of German primeval history.
And thirdly, the German women were highly respected and also influenced
public affairs, a fact directly opposed to monogamic male supremacy. In
all these things the Germans almost harmonize with the Spartans, who, as
we saw, also had not fully overcome the pairing family. Hence in this
respect an entirely new element succeeded to the world's supremacy with
the Germans. The new monogamy now developing the ruins of the Roman
world from the mixture of nations endowed male rule with a milder form
and accorded to women a position that was at least outwardly far more
respected and free than classical antiquity ever knew. Not until now
was there a possibility of developing from monogamy--in it, by the side
of it or against it, as the case might be--the highest ethical progress
we owe to it: the modern individual sexlove, unknown to all previous

This progress doubtless arose from the fact that the Germans still lived
in the pairing family and inoculated monogamy as far as possible with
the position of women corresponding to the former. It was in no way due
to the legendary and wonderfully pure natural qualities of the Germans.
These qualities were limited to the simple fact that the pairing family
indeed does not create the marked moral contrasts of monogamy. On the
contrary, the Germans, especially those who wandered southeast among the
nomadic nations of the Black Sea, had greatly degenerated morally.
Beside the equestrian tricks of the inhabitants of the steppe they had
also acquired some very unnatural vices. This is expressly confirmed of
the Thaifali by Ammianus and of the Heruli by Prokop.

Although monogamy was the only one of all known forms of the family in
which modern sexlove could develop, this does not imply that it
developed exclusively or even principally as mutual love of man and
wife. The very nature of strict monogamy under man's rule excluded this.
Among all historically active, i. e., ruling, classes matrimony remained
what it had been since the days of the pairing family--a conventional
matter arranged by the parents. And the first historical form of sexlove
as a passion, as an attribute of every human being (at least of the
ruling classes), the specific character of the highest form of the
sexual impulse, this first form, the love of the knights in the middle
ages, was by no means matrimonial love, but quite the contrary. In its
classic form, among the Provençals, it heads with full sails for
adultery and their poets extol the latter. The flower of Provençal love
poetry, the Albas, describe in glowing colors how the knight sleeps with
his adored--the wife of another--while the watchman outside calls him at
the first faint glow of the morning (alba) and enables him to escape
unnoticed. The poems culminate in the parting scene. Likewise the
Frenchmen of the north and also the honest Germans adopted this style of
poetry and the manner of knightly love corresponding to it. Old Wolfram
von Eschenbach has left us three wonderful "day songs" treating this
same questionable subject, and I like them better than his three heroic

Civil matrimony in our day is of two kinds. In Catholic countries, the
parents provide a fitting spouse for their son as of old, and the
natural consequence is the full development of the contradictions
inherent to monogamy: voluptuous hetaerism on the man's part, voluptuous
adultery of the woman. Probably the Catholic church has abolished
divorce for the simple reason that it had come to the conclusion, there
was as little help for adultery as for death. In Protestant countries,
again, it is the custom to give the bourgeois son more or less liberty
in choosing his mate. Hence a certain degree of love may be at the
bottom of such a marriage and for the sake of propriety this is always
assumed, quite in keeping with Protestant hypocrisy. In this case
hetaerism is carried on less strenuously and adultery on the part of the
woman is not so frequent. But as human beings remain under any form of
marriage what they were before marrying, and as the citizens of
Protestant countries are mostly philistines, this Protestant monogamy on
the average of the best cases confines itself to the community of a
leaden ennui, labeled wedded bliss. The best mirror of these two species
of marriage is the novel, the French novel for the Catholic, the German
novel for the Protestant brand. In both of these novels they "get one
another:" in the German novel the man gets the girl, in the French novel
the husband gets the horns. It does not always go without saying which
of the two deserves the most pity. For this reason the tediousness of
the German novels is abhorred as much by the French bourgeois as the
"immorality" of the French novels by the German philistine. Of late,
since Berlin became cosmopolitan, the German novel begins to treat
somewhat timidly of the hetaerism and adultery that a long time ago
became familiar features of that city.

In both cases the marriage is influenced by the class environment of the
participants, and in this respect it always remains conventional. This
conventionalism often enough results in the most pronounced
prostitution--sometimes of both parties, more commonly of the woman. She
is distinguished from a courtisane only in that she does not offer her
body for money by the hour like a commodity, but sells it into slavery
for once and all. Fourier's words hold good with respect to all
conventional marriages: "As in grammar two negatives make one
affirmative, so in matrimonial ethics, two prostitutions are considered
as one virtue." Sexual love in man's relation to woman becomes and can
become the rule among the oppressed classes alone, among the
proletarians of our day--no matter whether this relation is officially
sanctioned or not.

Here all the fundamental conditions of classic monogamy have been
abolished. Here all property is missing and it was precisely for the
protection and inheritance of this that monogamy and man rule were
established. Hence all incentive to make this rule felt is wanting here.
More still, the funds are missing. Civil law protecting male rule
applies only to the possessing classes and their intercourse with
proletarians. Law is expensive and therefore the poverty of the laborer
makes it meaningless for his relation to his wife. Entirely different
personal and social conditions decide in this case. And finally, since
the great industries have removed women from the home to the labor
market and to the factory, the last remnant of man rule in the
proletarian home has lost its ground--except, perhaps, a part of the
brutality against women that has become general since the advent of
monogamy. Thus the family of the proletarian is no longer strictly
monogamous, even with all the most passionate love and the most
unalterable loyalty of both parties, and in spite of any possible
clerical or secular sanction. Consequently the eternal companions of
monogamy, hetaerism and adultery, play an almost insignificant role
here. The woman has practically regained the right of separation, and if
a couple cannot agree, they rather separate. In short, the proletarian
marriage is monogamous in the etymological sense of the word, but by no
means in a historical sense.

True, our jurists hold that the progress of legislation continually
lessens all cause of complaint for women. The modern systems of civil
law recognize, first that marriage, in order to be legal, must be a
contract based on voluntary consent of both parties, and secondly that
during marriage the relations of both parties shall be founded on equal
rights and duties. These two demands logically enforced will, so they
claim, give to women everything they could possibly ask.

This genuinely juridical argumentation is exactly the same as that used
by the radical republican bourgeois to cut short and dismiss the
proletarian. The labor contract is said to be voluntarily made by both
parties. But it is considered as voluntary when the law places both
parties on equal terms on paper. The power conferred on one party by the
division of classes, the pressure thereby exerted on the other party,
the actual economic relation of the two--all this does not concern the
law. Again, during the term of the contract both parties are held to
have equal rights, unless one has expressly renounced his right. That
the economic situation forces the laborer to give up even the last
semblance of equality, that is not the fault of the law.

In regard to marriage, even the most advanced law is completely
satisfied after both parties have formally declared their willingness.
What passes behind the juridical scenes where the actual process of
living is going on, and how this willingness is brought about, that
cannot be the business of the law and the jurist. Yet the simplest legal
comparison should show to the jurist what this willingness really means.
In those countries where a legitimate portion of the parental wealth is
assured to children and where these cannot be disinherited--in Germany,
in countries with French law, etc.--the children are bound to secure the
consent of their parents for marrying. In countries with English law,
where the consent of the parents is by no means a legal qualification of
marriage, the parents have full liberty to bequeath their wealth to
anyone and may disinherit their children at will. Hence it is clear that
among classes having any property to bequeath the freedom to marry is
not a particle greater in England and America than in France and

The legal equality of man and woman in marriage is by no means better
founded. Their legal inequality inherited from earlier stages of society
is not the cause, but the effect of the economic oppression of women. In
the ancient communistic household comprising many married couples and
their children, the administration of the household entrusted to women
was just as much a public function, a socially necessary industry, as
the procuring of food by men. In the patriarchal and still more in the
monogamous family this was changed. The administration of the household
lost its public character. It was no longer a concern of society. It
became a private service. The woman became the first servant of the
house, excluded from participation in social production. Only by the
great industries of our time the access to social production was again
opened for women--for proletarian women alone, however. This is done in
such a manner that they remain excluded from public production and
cannot earn anything, if they fulfill their duties in the private
service of the family; or that they are unable to attend to their family
duties, if they wish to participate in public industries and earn a
living independently. As in the factory, so women are situated in all
business departments up to the medical and legal professions. The modern
monogamous family is founded on the open or disguised domestic slavery
of women, and modern society is a mass composed of molecules in the form
of monogamous families. In the great majority of cases the man has to
earn a living and to support his family, at least among the possessing
classes. He thereby obtains a superior position that has no need of any
legal special privilege. In the family, he is the bourgeois, the woman
represents the proletariat. In the industrial world, however, the
specific character of the economic oppression weighing on the
proletariat appears in its sharpest outlines only after all special
privileges of the capitalist class are abolished and the full legal
equality of both classes is established. A democratic republic does not
abolish the distinction between the two classes. On the contrary, it
offers the battleground on which this distinction can be fought out.
Likewise the peculiar character of man's rule over woman in the modern
family, the necessity and the manner of accomplishing the real social
equality of the two, will appear in broad daylight only then, when both
of them will enjoy complete legal equality. It will then be seen that
the emancipation of women is primarily dependent on the re-introduction
of the whole female sex into the public industries. To accomplish this,
the monogamous family must cease to be the industrial unit of society.

       *       *       *       *       *

We have, then, three main forms of the family, corresponding in general
to the three main stages of human development. For savagery group
marriage, for barbarism the pairing family, for civilization monogamy
supplemented by adultery and prostitution. Between the pairing family
and monogamy, in the higher stage of barbarism, the rule of men over
female slaves and polygamy is inserted.

As we proved by our whole argument, the progress visible in this chain
of phenomena is connected with the peculiarity of more and more
curtailing the sexual freedom of the group marriage for women, but not
for men. And group marriage is actually practised by men to this day.
What is considered a crime for women and entails grave legal and social
consequences for them, is considered honorable for men or in the worst
case a slight moral blemish born with pleasure. But the more traditional
hetaerism is changed in our day by capitalistic production and conforms
to it, the more hetaerism is transformed into undisguised prostitution,
the more demoralizing are its effects. And it demoralizes men far more
than women. Prostitution does not degrade the whole female sex, but only
the luckless women that become its victims, and even those not to the
extent generally assumed. But it degrades the character of the entire
male world. Especially a long engagement is in nine cases out of ten a
perfect training school of adultery.

We are now approaching a social revolution, in which the old economic
foundations of monogamy will disappear just as surely as those of its
complement, prostitution. Monogamy arose through the concentration of
considerable wealth in one hand--a man's hand--and from the endeavor to
bequeath this wealth to the children of this man to the exclusion of all
others. This necessitated monogamy on the woman's, but not on the man's
part. Hence this monogamy of women in no way hindered open or secret
polygamy of men. Now, the impending social revolution will reduce this
whole care of inheritance to a minimum by changing at least the
overwhelming part of permanent and inheritable wealth--the means of
production--into social property. Since monogamy was caused by economic
conditions, will it disappear when these causes are abolished?

One might reply, not without reason: not only will it not disappear, but
it will rather be perfectly realized. For with the transformation of the
means of production into collective property, wage labor will also
disappear, and with it the proletariat and the necessity for a certain,
statistically ascertainable number of women to surrender for money.
Prostitution disappears and monogamy, instead of going out of existence,
at last becomes a reality--for men also.

At all events, the situation will be very much changed for men. But also
that of women, and of all women, will be considerably altered. With the
transformation of the means of production into collective property the
monogamous family ceases to be the economic unit of society. The private
household changes to a social industry. The care and education of
children becomes a public matter. Society cares equally well for all
children, legal or illegal. This removes the care about the
"consequences" which now forms the essential social factor--moral and
economic--hindering a girl to surrender unconditionally to the beloved
man. Will not this be sufficient cause for a gradual rise of a more
unconventional intercourse of the sexes and a more lenient public
opinion regarding virgin honor and female shame? And finally, did we not
see that in the modern world monogamy and prostitution, though
antitheses, are inseparable and poles of the same social condition? Can
prostitution disappear without engulfing at the same time monogamy?

Here a new element becomes active, an element which at best existed only
in the germ at the time when monogamy developed: individual sexlove.

Before the middle ages we cannot speak of individual sexlove. It goes
without saying that personal beauty, intimate intercourse, harmony of
inclinations, etc., awakened a longing for sexual intercourse in persons
of different sex, and that it was not absolutely immaterial to men and
women, with whom they entered into such most intimate intercourse. But
from such a relation to our sexlove there is a long way yet. All through
antiquity marriages were arranged for the participants by the parents,
and the former quietly submitted. What little matrimonial love was known
to antiquity was not subjective inclination, but objective duty; not
cause, but corollary of marriage. Love affairs in a modern sense
occurred in classical times only outside of official society. The
shepherds whose happiness and woe in love is sung by Theocritos and
Moschus, such as Daphnis and Chloë of Longos, all these were slaves who
had no share in the state and in the daily sphere of the free citizen.
Outside of slave circles we find love affairs only as products of
disintegration of the sinking old world. Their objects are women who
also are standing outside of official society, hetaerae that are either
foreigners or liberated slaves: in Athens since the beginning of its
decline, in Rome at the time of the emperors. If love affairs really
occurred between free male and female citizens, it was only in the form
of adultery. And to the classical love poet of antiquity, the old
Anakreon, sexlove in our sense was so immaterial, that he did not even
care a fig for the sex of the beloved being.

Our sexlove is essentially different from the simple sexual craving, the
Eros, of the ancients. In the first place it presupposes mutual love. In
this respect woman is the equal of man, while in the antique Eros her
permission is by no means always asked. In the second place our sexlove
has such a degree of intensity and duration that in the eyes of both
parties lack of possession and separation appear as a great, if not the
greatest, calamity. In order to possess one another they play for high
stakes, even to the point of risking their lives, a thing heard of only
in adultery during the classical age. And finally a new moral standard
is introduced for judging sexual intercourse. We not only ask: "Was it
legal or illegal?" but also: "Was it caused by mutual love or not?" Of
course, this new standard meets with no better fate in feudal or
bourgeois practice than all other moral standards--it is simply ignored.
But neither does it fare worse. It is recognized just as much as the
others--in theory, on paper. And that is all we can expect at present.

Where antiquity left off with its attempts at sexual love, there the
middle ages resumed the thread: with adultery. We have already described
the love of the knights that invented the day songs. From this love
endeavoring to break through the bonds of marriage to the love destined
to found marriage, there is a long distance which was never fully
traversed by the knights. Even in passing on from the frivolous Romanic
race to the virtuous Germans, we find in the Nibelungen song Kriemhild,
who secretly is no less in love with Siegfried than he with her, meekly
replying to Gunther's announcement that he has pledged her in troth to a
certain knight whom he does not name: "You need not beg for my consent;
as you will demand, so I shall ever be; whomever you, sir, will select
for my husband, I shall willingly take in troth." It does not enter her
head at all that her love could find any consideration. Gunther asks for
Brunhild, Etzel for Kriemhild without ever having seen one another. The
same is true of the suit of Gutrun Sigebant of Ireland for the Norwegian
Ute and of Hetel of Hegelingen for Hilda of Ireland. When Siegfried of
Morland, Hartmut of Oranien and Herwig of Sealand court Gutrun, then it
happens for the first time that the lady voluntarily decides, favoring
the last named knight. As a rule the bride of the young prince is
selected by his parents. Only when the latter are no longer alive, he
chooses his own bride with the advice of the great feudal lords who in
all cases of this kind have a decisive voice. Nor could it be otherwise.
For the knight and the baron as well as for the ruler of the realm
himself, marriage is a political act, an opportunity for increasing
their power by new federations. The interest of the house must decide,
not the arbitrary inclination of the individual. How could love have a
chance to decide the question of marriage in the last instance under
such conditions?

The same held good for the bourgeois of the medieval towns, the members
of the guilds. Precisely the privileges protecting them, the clauses and
restrictions of the guild charters, the artificial lines of division
separating them legally, here from the other guilds, there from their
journeymen and apprentices, drew a sufficiently narrow circle for the
selection of a fitting bourgeois spouse. Under such a complicated
system, the question of fitness was unconditionally decided, not by
individual inclination, but by family interests.

In the overwhelming majority of cases the marriage contract thus
remained to the end of the middle ages what it had been from the outset:
a matter that was not decided by the parties most interested. In the
beginning one was already married from his birth--married to a whole
group of the other sex. In the later forms of group marriage, a similar
relation was probably maintained, only under a continual narrowing of
the group. In the pairing family it is the rule for mothers to exchange
mutual pledges for the marriage of their children. Here also the main
consideration is given to new ties of relationship that will strengthen
the position of the young couple in the gens and the tribe. And when
with the preponderance of private property over collective property and
with the interest for inheritance paternal law and monogamy assumed the
supremacy, then marriage became still more dependent on economic
considerations. The form of purchase marriage disappears, but the
essence of the transaction is more and more intensified, so that not
only the woman, but also the man have a fixed price--not according to
his qualities, but to his wealth. That mutual fondness of the marrying
parties should be the one factor dominating all others had always been
unheard of in the practice of the ruling classes. Such a thing occurred
at best in romances or--among the oppressed classes that were not

This was the situation encountered by capitalist production when it
began to prepare, since the epoch of geographical discoveries, for the
conquest of the world by international trade and manufacture. One would
think that this mode of making the marriage contract would have been
extremely acceptable to capitalism, and it was. And yet--the irony of
fate is inexplicable--capitalist production had to make the decisive
breach through this mode. By changing all things into commodities, it
dissolved all inherited and traditional relations and replaced time
hallowed custom and historical right by purchase and sale, by the "free
contract." And the English jurist, H. S. Maine, thought he had made a
stupendous discovery by saying that our whole progress over former
epochs consisted in arriving from status to contract, from inherited to
voluntarily contracted conditions. So far as this is correct, it had
already been mentioned in the Communist Manifesto.

But in order to make contracts, people must have full freedom over their
persons, actions and possessions. They must furthermore be on terms of
mutual equality. The creation of these "free" and "equal" people was
precisely one of the main functions of capitalistic production. What
though this was done at first in a half-conscious way and, moreover, in
a religious disguise? Since the Lutheran and Calvinist reformation the
thesis was accepted that a human being is fully responsible for his
actions only then, when these actions were due to full freedom of will.
And it was held to be a moral duty to resist any compulsion for an
immoral action. How did this agree with the prevailing practice of
match-making? Marriage according to bourgeois conception was a contract,
a legal business affair, and the most important one at that, because it
decided the weal and woe of body and spirit of two beings for life. At
that time the agreement was formally voluntary; without the consent of
the contracting parties nothing could be done. But it was only too well
known how this consent was obtained and who were really the contracting
parties. If, however, perfect freedom of decision is demanded for all
other contracts, why not for this one? Did not the two young people who
were to be coupled together have the right freely to dispose of
themselves, of their bodies and the organs of these? Had not sexual love
become the custom through the knights and was not, in opposition to
knightly adultery, the love of married couples its proper bourgeois
form? And if it was the duty of married couples to love one another, was
it not just as much the duty of lovers to marry each other and nobody
else? Stood not the right of lovers higher than the right of parents,
relatives and other customary marriage brokers and matrimonial agents?
If the right of free personal investigation made its way unchecked into
the church and religion, how could it bear with the insupportable claims
of the older generation on the body, soul, property, happiness and
misfortune of the younger generation?

These questions had to be raised at a time when all the old ties of
society were loosened and all traditional conceptions tottering. The
size of the world had increased tenfold at a bound. Instead of one
quadrant of one hemisphere, the whole globe now spread before the eyes
of West Europeans who hastened to take possession of the other seven
quadrants. And the thousand-year-old barriers of conventional medieval
thought fell like the old narrow obstacles to marriage. An infinitely
wider horizon opened out before the outer and inner eyes of humanity.
What mattered the well-meaning propriety, what the honorable privilege
of the guild overcome through generations to the young man tempted by
the gold and silver mines of Mexico and Potosi?

It was the knight errant time of the bourgeoisie. It had its own
romances and love dreams, but on a bourgeois footing and, in the last
instance, with bourgeois aims.

Thus it came about that the rising bourgeoisie more and more recognized
the freedom of contracting in marriage and carried it through in the
manner described above, especially in Protestant countries, where
existing institutions were most strongly shaken. Marriage remained class
marriage, but within the class a certain freedom of choice was accorded
to the contracting parties. And on paper, in moral theory as in poetical
description, nothing was more unalterably established than the idea that
every marriage was immoral unless founded on mutual sex-love and
perfectly free agreement of husband and wife. In short, the love match
was proclaimed as a human right, not only as droit de l'homme--man's
right--but also for once as droit de femme--woman's right.

However, this human right differed from all other so-called human rights
in one respect. While in practice other rights remained the privileges
of the ruling class, the bourgeoisie, and were directly or indirectly
curtailed for proletarians, the irony of history once more asserted
itself in this case. The ruling class remains subject to well-known
economic influences and, therefore, shows marriage by free selection
only in exceptional cases. But among the oppressed class, love matches
are the rule, as we have seen.

Hence the full freedom of marriage can become general only after all
minor economic considerations, that still exert such a powerful
influence on the choice of a mate for life, have been removed by the
abolition of capitalistic production and of the property relations
created by it. Then no other motive will remain but mutual fondness.

Since sexlove is exclusive by its very nature--although this
exclusiveness is at present realized for women alone--marriage founded
on sexlove must be monogamous. We have seen that Bachofen was perfectly
right in regarding the progress from group marriage to monogamy mainly
as the work of women. Only the advance from the pairing family to
monogamy must be charged to the account of men. This advance implied,
historically, a deterioration in the position of women and a greater
opportunity for men to be faithless. Remove the economic considerations
that now force women to submit to the customary disloyalty of men, and
you will place women on a equal footing with men. All present
experiences prove that this will tend much more strongly to make men
truly monogamous, than to make women polyandrous.

However, those peculiarities that were stamped upon the face of monogamy
by its rise through property relations, will decidedly vanish, namely
the supremacy of men and the indissolubility of marriage. The supremacy
of man in marriage is simply the consequence of his economic superiority
and will fall with the abolition of the latter.

The indissolubility of marriage is partly the consequence of economic
conditions, under which monogamy arose, partly tradition from the time
where the connection between this economic situation and monogamy, not
yet clearly understood, was carried to extremes by religion. To-day, it
has been perforated a thousand times. If marriage founded on love is
alone moral, then it follows that marriage is moral only as long as love
lasts. The duration of an attack of individual sexlove varies
considerably according to individual disposition, especially in men. A
positive cessation of fondness or its replacement by a new passionate
love makes a separation a blessing for both parties and for society.
But humanity will be spared the useless wading through the mire of a
divorce case.

What we may anticipate about the adjustment of sexual relations after
the impending downfall of capitalist production is mainly of a negative
nature and mostly confined to elements that will disappear. But what
will be added? That will be decided after a new generation has come to
maturity: a race of men who never in their lives have had any occasion
for buying with money or other economic means of power the surrender of
a woman; a race of women who have never had any occasion for
surrendering to any man for any other reason but love, or for refusing
to surrender to their lover from fear of economic consequences. Once
such people are in the world, they will not give a moment's thought to
what we to-day believe should be their course. They will follow their
own practice and fashion their own public opinion about the individual
practice of every person--only this and nothing more.

But let us return to Morgan from whom we moved away a considerable
distance. The historical investigation of social institutions developed
during the period of civilization exceeds the limits of his book. Hence
the vicissitudes of monogamy during this epoch occupy him very briefly.
He also sees in the further development of the monogamous family a
progress, an approach to perfect equality of the sexes, without
considering this aim fully realized. But he says: "When the fact is
accepted that the family has passed through four successive forms, and
is now in a fifth, the question at once arises whether this form can be
permanent in the future. The only answer that can be given is that it
must advance as society advances, and change as society changes, even as
it has done in the past. It is the creature of the social system, and
will reflect its culture. As the monogamian family has improved greatly
since the commencement of civilization, and very sensibly in modern
times, it is at least supposable that it is capable of still farther
improvement until the equality of the sexes is attained. Should the
monogamian family in the distant future fail to answer the requirements
of society, assuming the continuous progress of civilization, it is
impossible to predict the nature of its successor."


[7] Author's note.

How little Bachofen understood what he had discovered, or rather
guessed, is proved by the term "hetaerism," which he applies to this
primeval stage. Hetaerism designated among the Greeks an intercourse of
men, single or living in monogamy, with unmarried women. It always
presupposes the existence of a well defined form of marriage, outside of
which this intercourse takes place, and includes the possibility of
prostitution. In another sense this word was never used, and I use it in
this sense with Morgan. Bachofen's very important discoveries are
everywhere mystified in the extreme by his idea that the historical
relations of man and wife have their source in the religious conceptions
of a certain period, not in the economic conditions of life.

[8] Translator's note.

The female of the European cuckoo (cuculus canorus) keeps intercourse
with several males in different districts during the same season. Still,
this is far from the human polyandry, in which the men and one women all
live together in the same place, the men mutually tolerating one
another, which male cuckoos do not.

[9] Westermarck, The History of Human Marriage, London, 1891.

[10] Espinas, Des Societes Animales, 1877.

[11] Espinas, l. c., quoted by Giraud-Teulon, Origines du mariage et de
la famille, 1884, p. 518-20.

[12] Author's note.

In the spring of 1882, Marx expressed himself in the
strongest terms on the total misrepresentation of primeval times by
Wagner's Nibelungen text: "Who ever heard of a brother embracing his
sister as a bride?" To these lascivious Wagnerian gods who in truly
modern style are rendering their love quarrels more spicy by a little
incest, Marx replies: "In primeval times the sister was the wife and
that was moral." (To the fourth edition.) A French friend and admirer of
Wagner does not consent to this foot note, and remarks that even in the
Oegisdrecka, the more ancient Edda on which Wagner built, Loki denounces
Freya: "Before the gods you embraced your own brother." This, he says,
proves that marriage between brother and sister was interdicted even
then. But the Oegisdrecka is the expression of a time when the belief in
the old myths was totally shaken; it is a truly Lucian satire on the
gods. If Loki as Mephisto denounces Freya in this manner, then it is
rather a point against Wagner. Loki also says, a few verses further on,
to Niordhr: "With your sister you generated (such) a son" ("vidh systur
thinni gatzu slikan mog"). Niordhr is not an Asa, but a Vana, and says
in the Ynglinga Saga that marriages between brothers and sisters are
sanctioned in Vanaland, which is not the case among the Asas. This would
indicate that the Vanas are older gods than the Asas. At any rate
Niordhr lived on equal terms with the Asas, and the Oegisdrecka is thus
rather a proof that at the time of the origin of the Norwegian mythology
the marriage of brother and sister was not yet repulsive, at least not
to the gods. In trying to excuse Wagner it might be better to quote
Goethe instead of the Edda. This poet commits a similar error in his
ballad of the god and the bajadere in regard to the religious surrender
of women and approaches modern prostitution far too closely.

[13] There is no longer any doubt that the traces of unrestricted sexual
intercourse, which Bachofen alleges to have found--called "incestuous
generation" by him--are traceable to group marriage. If Bachofen
considers those Punaluan marriages "lawless," a man of that period would
look upon most of our present marriages between near and remote cousins
on the father's or mother's side as incestuous, being marriages between
consanguineous relatives.--Marx.

[14] The People of India.

[15] See translator's note, p. 55.

[16] Translator's note.

According to Cunow, Kroki and Kumite are phratries. See "Die
Verwandschaftsorganizationen der Australneger," by Heinrich Cunow.
Stuttgart, Dietz Verlag, 1894.

[17] Translator's note.

Heinrich Cunow has given us the results of his most recent
investigations in his "Verwandschaftsorganisationen der Australneger."
He sums up his studies in these words: "While Morgan and Fison regard
the system of marriage classes as an original organization preceding the
so-called Punaluan family, I have found that the class is indeed older
than the gens, having its origin in the different strata of generations
characteristic of the "consanguine family" of Morgan; but the present
mode of classification in force among Kamilaroi, Kabi, Yuipera, etc.,
cannot have arisen until a much later time, when the gentile institution
had already grown out of the horde. This system of classification does
not represent the first timid steps of evolution; it is not the most
primitive of any known forms of social organization, but an intermediate
form that takes shape together with the gentile society, a stage of
transition to a pure gentile organization. In this stage, the generic
classification in strata of different ages belonging to the so-called
consanguine family runs parallel for a while with the gentile order....

It would have been easy for me to quote the testimony of travelers and
ethnologists in support of the conclusions drawn by me from the forms of
relationship among Australian negroes. But I purposely refrain from
doing this, with a few exceptions, first because I do not wish to write
a general history of the primitive family, and, secondly, because I
consider all references of this kind as very doubtful testimony, unless
they are accompanied by an analysis of the entire organization. We
frequently find analogies to the institutions of a lower stage in a high
stage, and yet they are founded on radically different premises and
causes. The evolution of the Australian aborigines shows that. Among the
Australians of the lower stage, e. g., the hordes are endogamous, among
those of the middle stage they are exogamous, and in the higher stage
they are again endogamous. But while in the one instance the marriage in
the horde is conditioned on the fact that the more remote relatives are
not yet excluded from sexual intercourse, it is founded in the other
case on the difference between local and sexual organization.
Furthermore, the marriage between daughter and father is permitted in
the lower stage, and again in that higher stage, where the class
organization of the Kamilaroi is on the verge of dissolution. But in
both cases the circle of those who are regarded as fathers is entirely
different. The character of an institution can only be perfectly
understood, if we examine its connection with the entire organization,
and, if possible, trace its metamorphoses in the preceding stages....

The characteristic feature of the class system is that by the side of
the gentile order, such as is found among the North American Indians,
there is always another system of four marriage classes for the purpose
of limiting sexual intercourse between certain groups of relatives.
Neither the phratry nor the gens of the Kamilaroi forms a distinct
territorial community. Their members are scattered among different
roving hordes, and they only meet occasionally, e. g., to celebrate a
feast or dance....

The origin of gentile systems out of Punaluan groups has never been
proven, while we see among the Australian negroes that the classes are
clearly and irrefutably in existence among the first traces of

The class system in its original form is a conclusive proof of Morgan's
theory, that the first step in the formation of systems of relationship
consisted in prohibiting sexual intercourse between parents and children
(in a wider sense)....

It has been often disputed that the Punaluan family ever existed outside
of the Sandwich Islands. But the marriage institutions of certain
Australian tribes named by me prove the contrary. The Pirrauru of the
Dieyerie is absolutely identical with the Punalua of the Hawaiians; and
these institutions were not described by travelers who rushed through
the territories of those tribes without knowing their language, but by
men who lived among them for decades and fully mastered their

I have shown how far the class system corresponds to the Hawaiian
system. It is and remains a fact, that it contains a long series of
terms that cannot be explained by the relations in the so-called
consanguine family, and the use of which creates confusion, if applied
to this family. But that simply shows that Morgan was mistaken about the
age and present structure of the Hawaiian system. It does not prove that
it could not have grown on the basis assumed by him....

If the opponents of Morgan dispute that the so-called consanguine family
is based on blood kinship, they are right, unless we wish to assign an
exceptional position to the Australian strata of generations. But if
they go further and declare that the subsequent restrictions of
inbreeding and the gentile order have arisen independently of
relationships, they commit a far greater mistake than Morgan. They block
their way to an understanding of subsequent organizations and force
themselves to all sorts of queer assumptions that at once appear as the
fruits of imagination, when compared with the actual institutions of
primitive peoples.

This explanation of the phases of development of family institutions
contradicts present day views on the matter. Since the scientific
investigations of the last decade have demonstrated beyond doubt that
the so-called patriarchal family was preceded by the matriarchal family,
it has become the custom to regard descent by females as a natural
institution belonging to the very first stages of development which is
explained by the modes of existence and thought among savages. Paternity
being a matter of speculation, maternity of actual observation, it is
supposed to follow that descent by females was always recognized. But
the development of the Australian systems of relationship shows that
this is not true, at least not in regard to Australians. The fact cannot
be disputed away, that we find female lineage among all those higher
developed tribes that have progressed to the formation of gentile
organizations, but male lineage among all those that have no gentile
organizations or where these are only in process of formation. Not a
single tribe has been discovered so far, where female lineage was not
combined with gentile organization, and I doubt that any will ever be

[18] The History of Human Marriage, p. 28-29.

[19] Mutterrecht, p. xix.

[20] A Journey in Brazil. Boston and New York, 1886. Page 266.

[21] Bancroft, Native Races, I., 81.

[22] Ibidem, p. 584.

[23] Morgan, Ancient Society, p. 504.



We now come to another discovery of Morgan that is at least as important
as the reconstruction of the primeval form of the family from the
systems of kinship. It is the proof that the sex organizations within
the tribe of North American Indians, designated by animal names, are
essentially identical with the genea of the Greeks and the gentes of the
Romans; that the American form is the original from which the Greek and
Roman forms were later derived; that the whole organization of Greek and
Roman society during primeval times in gens, phratry and tribe finds its
faithful parallel in that of the American Indians; that the gens is an
institution common to all barbarians up to the time of civilization--at
least so far as our present sources of information reach. This
demonstration has cleared at a single stroke the most difficult passages
of remotest ancient Greek and Roman history. At the same time it has
given us unexpected information concerning the fundamental outlines of
the constitution of society in primeval times--before the introduction
of the state. Simple as the matter is after we have once found it out,
still it was only lately discovered by Morgan. In his work of 1871 he
had not yet unearthed this mystery. Its revelation has completely
silenced for the time being those generally so overconfident English
authorities on primeval history.

The Latin word gens, used by Morgan generally for the designation of
this sex organization, is derived, like the equivalent Greek word
genos, from the common Aryan root gan, signifying to beget. Gens, genos,
Sanskrit dschanas, Gothic kuni, ancient Norse and Anglesaxon kyn,
English kin, Middle High German künne, all signify lineage, descent.
Gens in Latin, genos in Greek, specially designate that sex organization
which boasted of common descent (from a common sire) and was united into
a separate community by certain social and religious institutions, but
the origin and nature of which nevertheless remained obscure to all our

Elsewhere, in speaking of the Punaluan family, we saw how the gens was
constituted in its original form. It consisted of all individuals who by
means of the Punaluan marriage and in conformity with the conceptions
necessarily arising in it made up the recognized offspring of a certain
ancestral mother, the founder of that gens. Since fatherhood is
uncertain in this form of the family, female lineage is alone valid. And
as brothers must not marry their sisters, but only women of foreign
descent, the children bred from these foreign women do not belong to the
gens, according to maternal law. Hence only the offspring of the
daughters of every generation remain in the same sex organization. The
descendants of the sons are transferred to the gentes of the new
mothers. What becomes of this group of kinship when it constitutes
itself a separate group, distinct from similar groups in the same tribe?

As the classical form of this original gens Morgan selects that of the
Iroquois, more especially that of the Seneca tribe. This tribe has eight
gentes named after animals: 1. Wolf. 2. Bear. 3. Turtle. 4. Beaver. 5.
Deer. 6. Snipe. 7. Heron. 8. Hawk. Every gens observes the following

1. The gens elects its sachem (official head during peace) and its chief
(leader in war). The sachem must be selected within the gens and his
office was in a sense hereditary. It had to be filled immediately after
a vacancy occurred. The chief could be selected outside of the gens, and
his office could even be temporarily vacant. The son never followed his
father in the office of sachem, because the Iroquois observed maternal
law, in consequence of which the son belonged to another gens. But the
brother or the son of a sister was often elected as a successor. Men and
women both voted in elections. The election, however, had to be
confirmed by the other seven gentes, and then only the sachem-elect was
solemnly invested, by the common council of the whole Iroquois
federation. The significance of this will be seen later. The power of
the sachem within the tribe was of a paternal, purely moral nature. He
had no means of coercion at his command. He was besides by virtue of his
office a member of the tribal council of the Senecas and of the federal
council of the whole Iroquois nation. The Chief had the right to command
only in times of war.

2. The gens can retire the sachem and the chief at will. This again is
done by men and women jointly. The retired men are considered simple
warriors and private persons like all others. The tribal council, by the
way, can also retire the sachems, even against the will of the tribe.

3. No member is permitted to marry within the gens. This is the
fundamental rule of the gens, the tie that holds it together. It is the
negative expression of the very positive blood relationship, by virtue
of which the individuals belonging to it become a gens. By the discovery
of this simple fact Morgan for the first time revealed the nature of the
gens. How little the gens had been understood before him is proven by
former reports on savages and barbarians, in which the different
organizations of which the gentile order is composed are jumbled
together without understanding and distinction as tribe, clan, thum,
etc. Sometimes it is stated that intermarrying within these
organizations is forbidden. This gave rise to the hopeless confusion, in
which McLennan could pose as Napoleon and establish order by the decree:
All tribes are divided into those that forbid intermarrying (exogamous)
and those that permit it (endogamous). And after he had thus made
confusion worse confounded, he could indulge in deep meditations which
of his two preposterous classes was the older: exogamy or endogamy. By
the discovery of the gens founded on affinity of blood and the resulting
impossibility of its members to intermarry, this nonsense found a
natural end. It is self understood that the marriage interdict within
the gens was strictly observed at the stage in which we find the

4. The property of deceased members fell to the share of the other
gentiles; it had to remain in the gens. In view of the insignificance of
the objects an Iroquois could leave behind, the nearest gentile
relations divided the heritage. Was the deceased a man, then his natural
brothers, sisters and the brothers of the mother shared in his property.
Was it a woman, then her children and natural sisters shared, but not
her brothers. For this reason husband and wife could not inherit from
one another, nor the children from the father.

5. The gentile members owed to each other help, protection and
especially assistance in revenging injury inflicted by strangers. The
individual relied for his protection on the gens and could be assured of
it. Whoever injured the individual, injured the whole gens. From this
blood kinship arose the obligation to blood revenge that was
unconditionally recognized by the Iroquois. If a stranger killed a
gentile member, the whole gens of the slain man was pledged to revenge
his death. First mediation was tried. The gens of the slayer deliberated
and offered to the gentile council of the slain propositions for
atonement, consisting generally in expressions of regret and presents of
considerable value. If these were accepted, the matter was settled. In
the opposite case the injured gens appointed one or more avengers who
were obliged to pursue the slayer and to kill him. If they succeeded,
the gens of the slayer had no right to complain. The account was

6. The gens had certain distinct names or series of names, which no
other gens in the whole tribe could use, so that the name of the
individual indicated to what gens he belonged. A gentile name at the
same time bestowed gentile rights.

7. The gens may adopt strangers who thereby are adopted into the whole
tribe. The prisoners of war who were not killed became by adoption into
a gens tribal members of the Senecas and thus received full gentile and
tribal rights. The adoption took place on the motion of some gentile
members, of men who accepted the stranger as a brother or sister, of
women who accepted him as a child. The solemn introduction into the gens
was necessary to confirm the adoption. Frequently certain gentes that
had shrunk exceptionally were thus strengthened by mass adoptions from
another gens with the consent of the latter. Among the Iroquois the
solemn introduction into the gens took place in a public meeting of the
tribal council, whereby it actually became a religious ceremony.

The existence of special religious celebrations among Indian gentes can
hardly be demonstrated. But the religious rites of the Indians are more
or less connected with the gens. At the six annual religious festivals
of the Iroquois the sachems and chiefs of the different gentes were
added to the "Keepers of the Faith" and had the functions of priests.

9. The gens had a common burial place. Among the Iroquois of the State
of New York, who are crowded by white men all around them, the burial
place has disappeared, but it existed formerly. Among other Indians it
is still in existence, e. g., among the Tuscaroras, near relatives of
the Iroquois, where every gens has a row by itself in the burial place,
although they are Christians. The mother is buried in the same row as
her children, but not the father. And among the Iroquois the whole gens
of the deceased attends the funeral, prepares the grave and provides the
addresses, etc.

10. The gens had a council, the democratic assembly of all male and
female gentiles of adult age, all with equal suffrage. This council
elected and deposed its sachems and chiefs; likewise the other "Keepers
of the Faith." It deliberated on gifts of atonement or blood revenge for
murdered gentiles and it adopted strangers into the gens. In short, it
was the sovereign power in the gens.

The following are the rights and privileges of the typical Indian gens,
according to Morgan: "All the members of an Iroquois gens were
personally free, and they were bound to defend each other's freedom;
they were equal in privileges and in personal rights, the sachems and
chiefs claiming no superiority; and they were a brotherhood bound
together by ties of kin. Liberty, equality and fraternity, though never
formulated, were cardinal principles of the gens. These facts are
material, because the gens was the unit of a social and governmental
system, the foundation upon which Indian society was organized. A
structure composed of such units would of necessity bear the impress of
their character, for as the unit, so the compound. It serves to explain
that sense of independence and personal dignity universally an
attribute of Indian character."

At the time of the discovery the Indians of entire North America were
organized in gentes by maternal law. Only "in some tribes, as among the
Dakotas, the gentes had fallen out; in others as among the Ojibwas, the
Omahas and the Mayas of Yucatan, descent had been changed from the
female to the male line."

Among many Indian tribes with more than five or six gentes we find
three, four or more gentes united into a separate group, called phratry
by Morgan in accurate translation of the Indian name by its Greek
equivalent. Thus the Senecas have two phratries, the first comprising
gentes one to four, the second gentes five to eight. Closer
investigation shows that these phratries generally represent the
original gentes that formed the tribe in the beginning. For the marriage
interdict necessitated the existence of at least two gentes in a tribe
in order to realize its separate existence. As the tribe increased,
every gens segmented into two or more new gentes, while the original
gens comprising all the daughter gentes, lived on in the phratry. Among
the Senecas and most of the other Indians "the gentes in the same
phratry are brother gentes to each other, and cousin gentes to those of
the other phratry"--terms that have a very real and expressive meaning
in the American system of kinship, as we have seen. Originally no Seneca
was allowed to marry within his phratry, but this custom has long become
obsolete and is now confined to the gens. According to the tradition
among the Senecas, the bear and the deer were the two original gentes,
from which the others were formed by segmentation. After this new
institution had become well established it was modified according to
circumstances. If certain gentes became extinct, it sometimes happened
that by mutual consent the members of one gens were transferred in a
body from other phratries. Hence we find the gentes of the same name
differently grouped in the phratries of the different tribes.

"The phratry, among the Iroquois, was partly for social and partly for
religious objects." 1. In the ball game one phratry plays against
another. Each one sends its best players, the other members, upon
different sides of the field, watch the game and bet against one another
on the result. 2. In the tribal council the sachems and chiefs of each
phratry are seated opposite one another, every speaker addressing the
representatives of each phratry as separate bodies. 3. When a murder had
been committed in the tribe, the slayer and the slain belonging to
different phratries, the injured gens often appealed to its brother
gentes. These held a phratry council which in a body addressed itself to
the other phratry, in order to prevail on the latter to assemble in
council and effect a condonation of the matter. In this case the phratry
re-appears in its original gentile capacity, and with a better prospect
of success than the weaker gens, its daughter. 4. At the funeral of
prominent persons the opposite phratry prepared the interment and the
burial rites, while the phratry of the deceased attended the funeral as
mourners. If a sachem died, the opposite phratry notified the central
council of the Iroquois that the office of the deceased had become
vacant. 5. In electing a sachem the phratry council also came into
action. Endorsement by the brother gentes was generally considered a
matter of fact, but the gentes of the other phratry might oppose. In
such a case the council of this phratry met, and if it maintained its
opposition, the election was null and void. 6. Formerly the Iroquois had
special religious mysteries, called medicine lodges by the white men.
These mysteries were celebrated among the Senecas by two religious
societies that had a special form of initiation for new members; each
phratry was represented by one of these societies. 7. If, as is almost
certain, the four lineages occupying the four quarters of Tlascalá at
the time of the conquest were four phratries, then it is proved that the
phratries were at the same time military units, as were the Greek
phratries and similar sex organizations of the Germans. Each of these
four lineages went into battle as a separate group with its special
uniform and flag and its own leader.

Just as several genres form a phratry so in the classical form several
phratries form a tribe. In some cases the middle group, the phratry, is
missing in strongly decimated tribes.

What constitutes an Indian tribe in America? 1. A distinct territory and
a distinct name. Every tribe had a considerable hunting and fishing
ground beside the place of its actual settlement. Beyond this territory
there was a wide neutral strip of land reaching over to the boundaries
of the next tribe; a smaller strip between tribes of related languages,
a larger between tribes of foreign languages. This corresponds to the
boundary forest of the Germans, the desert created by Caesar's Suevi
around their territory, the isârnholt (Danish jarnved, Latin limei
Danicus) between Danes and Germans, the sachsen wald (Saxon forest) and
the Slavish branibor between Slavs and Germans giving the province of
Brandenburg its name. The territory thus surrounded by neutral ground
was the collective property of a certain tribe, recognized as such by
other tribes and defended against the invasion of others. The
disadvantage of undefined boundaries became of practical importance
only after the population had increased considerably.

The tribal names generally seem to be more the result of chance than of
intentional selection. In course of time it frequently happened that a
tribe designated a neighboring tribe by another name than that chosen by
itself. In this manner the Germans received their first historical name
from the Celts.

2. A distinct dialect peculiar to this tribe. As a matter of fact the
tribe and the dialect are co-extensive. In America, the formation of new
tribes and dialects by segmentation was in progress until quite
recently, and doubtless it is still going on. Where two weak tribes
amalgamated into one, there it exceptionally happened that two closely
related dialects were simultaneously spoken in the same tribe. The
average strength of American tribes is less than 2,000 members. The
Cherokees, however, number about 26,000, the greatest number of Indians
in the United States speaking the same dialect.

3. The right to solemnly invest the sachems and chiefs elected by the
gentes, and

4. The right to depose them, even against the will of the gens. As these
sachems and chiefs are members of the tribal council, these rights of
the tribe explain themselves. Where a league of tribes had been formed
and all the tribes were represented in a feudal council, the latter
exercised these rights.

5. The possession of common religious conceptions (mythology) and rites.
"After the fashion of barbarians the American Indians were a religious
people." Their mythology has not yet been critically investigated. They
materialized their religious conceptions--spirits of all sorts--in human
shapes, but the lower stage of barbarism in which they lived, knows
nothing as yet of so-called idols. It is a cult of nature and of the
elements, in process of evolution to pantheism. The different tribes
had regular festivals with prescribed forms of worship, mainly dances
and games. Especially dancing was an essential part of all religious
celebrations. Every tribe celebrated by itself.

6. A tribal council for public affairs. It was composed of all the
sachems and chiefs of the different gentes, real representatives because
they could be deposed at any moment. It deliberated in public,
surrounded by the rest of the tribal members, who had a right to take
part in the discussions and claim attention. The council decided. As a
rule any one present gained a hearing on his demand. The women could
also present their views by a speaker of their choice. Among the
Iroquois the final resolution had to be passed unanimously, as was also
the case in some resolutions of German mark (border) communities. It was
the special duty of the tribal council to regulate the relations with
foreign tribes. The council received and despatched legations, declared
war and made peace. War was carried on principally by volunteers.
"Theoretically, each tribe was at war with every other tribe with which
it had not formed a treaty of peace."

Expeditions against such enemies were generally organized by certain
prominent warriors. They started a war dance, and whoever took part in
it thereby declared his intention to join the expedition. Ranks were
formed and the march began immediately. The defense of the attacked
tribal territory was also generally carried on by volunteers. The exodus
and the return of such columns was always the occasion of public
festivities. The consent of the tribal council for such expeditions was
not required, and was neither asked nor given. This corresponds to the
private war expeditions of German followers described by Tacitus. Only
these German groups of followers had already assumed a more permanent
character, forming a standing center organized during peace, around
which the other volunteers gathered in case of war. Such war columns
were rarely strong in numbers. The most important expeditions of the
Indians, even for long distances, were undertaken by insignificant
forces. If more than one group joined for a great expedition, every
group obeyed its own leader. The uniformity of the campaign plan was
secured as well as possible by a council of these leaders. This is the
mode of warfare among the Allemani in the fourth century on the Upper
Rhine, as described by Ammianus Marcellinus.

7. In some tribes we find a head chief, whose power, however, is
limited. He is one of the sachems who has to take provisional measures
in cases requiring immediate action, until the council can assemble and
decide. He represents a feeble, but generally undeveloped prototype of
an official with executive power. The latter, as we shall see, developed
in most cases out of the highest war chief.

The great majority of American Indians did not go beyond the league of
tribes. With a few tribes of small membership, separated by wide
boundary tracts, weakened by unceasing warfare, they occupied an immense
territory. Leagues were now and then formed by kindred tribes as the
result of momentary necessity and dissolved again under more favorable
conditions. But in certain districts, tribes of the same kin had again
found their way out of disbandment into permanent federations, making
the first step towards the formation of nations. In the United States we
find the highest form of such a league among the Iroquois. Emigrating
from their settlements west of the Mississippi, where they probably
formed a branch of the great Dakota family, they settled at last after
long wanderings in the present State of New York. They had five tribes:
Senecas, Cayugas, Onondagas, Oneidas and Mohawks. They lived on fish,
venison, and the products of rough gardening, inhabiting villages
protected by stockades. Their number never exceeded 20,000, and certain
gentes were common to all five tribes. They spoke closely related
dialects of the same language and occupied territories contiguous to one
another. As this land was won by conquest, it was natural for these
tribes to stand together against the expelled former inhabitants. This
led, not later than the beginning of the fifteenth century, to a regular
"eternal league," a sworn alliance that immediately assumed an
aggressive character, relying on its newly won strength. About 1675, at
the summit of its power, it had conquered large districts round about
and partly expelled the inhabitants, partly made them tributary. The
Iroquois League represented the most advanced social organization
attained by Indians that had not passed the lower stage of barbarism.
This excludes only the Mexicans, New Mexicans and Peruvians.

The fundamental provisions of the league were:

1. Eternal federation of the five consanguineous tribes on the basis of
perfect equality and independence in all internal tribal matters. This
consanguinity formed the true fundament of the league. Three of these
tribes, called father tribes, were brothers to one another; the other
two, also mutual brothers, were called son tribes. The three oldest
gentes were represented by living members in all five tribes, and these
members were all regarded as brothers. Three other gentes were still
alive in three tribes, and all of their members called one another
brothers. The common language, only modified by variations of dialect,
was the expression and proof of their common descent.

2. The official organ of the league was a federal council of fifty
sachems, all equal in rank and prominence. This council had the supreme
decision in all federal matters.

3. On founding this league the fifty sachems had been assigned to the
different tribes and gentes as holders of new offices created especially
for federal purposes. Vacancies were filled by new elections in the
gens, and the holders of these offices could be deposed at will. But the
right of installation belonged to the federal council.

4. These federal sachems were at the same time sachems of their tribe
and had a seat and a vote in the tribal council.

5. All decisions of the federal council had to be unanimous.

6. The votes were cast by tribes, so that every tribe and the council
members of each tribe had to vote together in order to adopt a final

7. Any one of the five tribes could convoke the federal council, but the
council could not convene itself.

8. Federal meetings were held publicly in the presence of the assembled
people. Every Iroquois could have the word, but the final decision
rested with the council.

9. The league had no official head, no executive chief.

10. It had, however, two high chiefs of war, both with equal functions
and power (the two "kings" of Sparta, the two consuls of Rome).

This was the whole constitution, under which the Iroquois lived over
four hundred years and still live. I have described it more fully after
Morgan, because we have here an opportunity for studying the
organization of a society that does not yet know a state. The state
presupposes a public power of coërcion separated from the aggregate
body of its members. Maurer, with correct intuition, recognized the
constitution of the German Mark as a purely social institution,
essentially different from that of a state, though furnishing the
fundament on which a state constitution could be erected later on. Hence
in all of his writings, he traced the gradual rise of the public power
of coërcion from and by the side of primordial constitutions of marks,
villages, farms and towns. The North American Indians show how an
originally united tribe gradually spreads over an immense continent; how
tribes by segmentation become nations, whole groups of tribes; how
languages change so that they not only become unintelligible to one
another, but also lose every trace of former unity; how at the same time
one gens splits up into several gentes, how the old mother gentes are
preserved in the phratries and how the names of these oldest gentes
still remain the same in widely distant and long separated tribes. Wolf
and bear still are gentile names in a majority of all Indian tribes. And
the above named constitution is essentially applicable to all of them,
except that many did not reach the point of forming leagues of related

But once the gens was given as a social unit, we also see how the whole
constitution of gentes, phratries and tribes developed with almost
unavoidable necessity--because naturally--from the gens. All three of
them are groups of differentiated consanguine relations. Each is
complete in itself, arranges its own local affairs and supplements the
other groups. And the cycle of functions performed by them includes the
aggregate of the public affairs of men in the lower stage of barbarism.

Wherever we find the gens as the social unit of a nation, we are
justified in searching for a tribal organization similar to the one
described above. And whenever sufficient material is at hand, as in
Greek and Roman history, there we shall not only find such an
organization, but we may also be assured, that the comparison with the
American sex organizations will assist us in solving the most perplexing
doubts and riddles in places where the material forsakes us.

How wonderful this gentile constitution is in all its natural
simplicity! No soldiers, gendarmes and policemen, no nobility, kings,
regents, prefects or judges, no prisons, no lawsuits, and still affairs
run smoothly. All quarrels and disputes are settled by the entire
community involved in them, either the gens or the tribe or the various
gentes among themselves. Only in very rare cases the blood revenge is
threatened as an extreme measure. Our capital punishment is simply a
civilized form of it, afflicted with all the advantages and drawbacks of
civilization. Not a vestige of our cumbersome and intricate system of
administration is needed, although there are more public affairs to be
settled than nowadays: the communistic household is shared by a number
of families, the land belongs to the tribe, only the gardens are
temporarily assigned to the households. The parties involved in a
question settle it and in most cases the hundred-year-old traditions
have settled everything beforehand. There cannot be any poor and
destitute--the communistic households and the gentes know their duties
toward the aged, sick and disabled. All are free and equal--the women
included. There is no room yet for slaves, nor for the subjugation of
foreign tribes. When about 1651 the Iroquois had vanquished the Eries
and the "Neutral Nation," they offered to adopt them into the league on
equal terms. Only when the vanquished declined this offer they were
driven out of their territory.

What splendid men and women were produced by such a society! All the
white men who came into contact with unspoiled Indians admired the
personal dignity, straightforwardness, strength of character and bravery
of these barbarians.

We lately received proofs of such bravery in Africa. A few years ago the
Zulus, and some months ago the Nubians, both of which tribes still
retain the gentile organization, did what no European army can do. Armed
only with lances and spears, without any firearms, they advanced under a
hail of bullets from breechloaders up to the bayonets of the English
infantry--the best of the world for fighting in closed ranks--and threw
them into confusion more than once, yea, even forced them to retreat in
spite of the immense disparity of weapons, and in spite of the fact that
they have no military service and don't know anything about drill. How
enduring and able they are, is proved by the complaints of the English
who admit that a Kaffir can cover a longer distance in twenty-four hours
than a horse. The smallest muscle springs forth, hard and tough like a
whiplash, says an English painter.

Such was human society and its members, before the division into classes
had taken place. And a comparison of that social condition with the
condition of the overwhelming majority of present day society shows the
enormous chasm that separates our proletarian and small farmer from the
free gentile of old.

That is one side of the question. We must not overlook, however, that
this organization was doomed. It did not pass beyond the tribe. The
league of tribes marked the beginning of its downfall, as we shall see,
and as the attempts of the Iroquois at subjugating others showed.
Whatever went beyond the tribe, went outside of gentilism. Where no
direct peace treaty existed, there war reigned from tribe to tribe. And
this war was carried on with the particular cruelty that distinguishes
man from other animals, and that was modified later on simply by

The gentile constitution in its most flourishing time, such as we saw it
in America, presupposed a very undeveloped state of production, hence a
population thinly scattered over a wide area. Man was almost completely
dominated by nature, a strange and incomprehensible riddle to him. His
simple religious conceptions clearly reflect this. The tribe remained
the boundary line for man, as well in regard to himself as to strangers
outside. The gens, the tribe and their institutions were holy and
inviolate. They were a superior power instituted by nature, and the
feelings, thoughts and actions of the individual remained
unconditionally subject to them. Commanding as the people of this epoch
appear to us, nothing distinguishes one from another. They are still
attached, as Marx has it, to the navel string of the primordial

The power of these natural and spontaneous communities had to be broken,
and it was. But it was done by influences that from the very beginning
bear the mark of degradation, of a downfall from the simple moral
grandeur of the old gentile society. The new system of classes is
inaugurated by the meanest impulses: vulgar covetousness, brutal lust,
sordid avarice, selfish robbery of common wealth. The old gentile
society without classes is undermined and brought to fall by the most
contemptible means: theft, violence, cunning, treason. And during all
the thousands of years of its existence, the new society has never been
anything else but the development of the small minority at the expense
of the exploited and oppressed majority. More than ever this is true at



Greeks, Pelasgians and other nations of the same tribal origin were
constituted since prehistoric times on the same systematic plan as the
Americans: gens, phratry, tribe, league of tribes. The phratry might be
missing, as e. g. among the Dorians; the league of tribes might not be
fully developed in every case; but the gens was everywhere the unit. At
the time of their entrance into history, the Greeks were on the
threshold of civilization. Two full periods of evolution are stretching
between the Greeks and the above named American tribes. The Greeks of
the heroic age are by so much ahead of the Iroquois. For this reason the
Grecian gens no longer retains the archaic character of the Iroquois
gens. The stamp of group marriage is becoming rather blurred. Maternal
law had given way to paternal lineage. Rising private property had thus
made its first opening in the gentile constitution. A second opening
naturally followed the first: Paternal law being now in force, the
fortune of a wealthy heiress would have fallen to her husband in the
case of her marriage. That would have meant the transfer of her wealth
from her own gens to that of her husband. In order to avoid this, the
fundament of gentile law was shattered. In such a case, the girl was not
only permitted, but obliged to intermarry within the gens, in order to
retain the wealth in the latter.

According to Grote's History of Greece, the gens of Attica was held
together by the following bonds:

1. Common religious rites and priests installed exclusively in honor of
a certain divinity, the alleged gentile ancestor, who was designated by
a special by-name in this capacity.

2. A common burial ground. (See Demosthenes' Eubulides.)

3. Right of mutual inheritance.

4. Obligation to mutually help, protect and assist one another in case
of violence.

5. Mutual right and duty to intermarry in the gens in certain cases,
especially for orphaned girls or heiresses.

6. Possession of common property, at least in some cases, and an archon
(supervisor) and treasurer elected for this special case.

The phratry united several gentes, but rather loosely. Still we find in
it similar rights and duties, especially common religious rites and the
right of avenging the death of a phrator. Again, all the phratries of a
tribe had certain religious festivals in common that recurred at regular
intervals and were celebrated under the guidance of a phylobasileus
(tribal head) selected from the ranks of the nobles (eupatrides).

So far Grote. And Marx adds: "The savage (e. g. the Iroquois) is still
plainly visible in the Grecian gens." On further investigation we find
additional proofs of this. For the Grecian gens has also the following

7. Paternal Lineage.

8. Prohibition of intermarrying in the gens except in the case of
heiresses. This exception formulated as a law clearly proves the
validity of the old rule. This is further substantiated by the
universally accepted custom that a woman in marrying renounced the
religious rites of her gens and accepted those of her husband's gens.
She was also registered in his phratry. According to this custom and to
a famous quotation in Dikaearchos, marriage outside of the gens was the
rule. Becker in "Charikles" directly assumes that nobody was permitted
to intermarry in the gens.

9. The right to adopt strangers in the gens. It was exercised by
adoption into the family under public formalities; but it was used

10. The right to elect and depose the archons. We know that every gens
had its archon. As to the heredity of the office, there is no reliable
information. Until the end of barbarism, the probability is always
against strict heredity. For it is absolutely incompatible with
conditions where rich and poor had perfectly equal rights in the gens.

Not alone Grote, but also Niebuhr, Mommsen and all other historians of
classical antiquity, were foiled by the gens. Though they chronicled
many of its distinguishing marks correctly, still they always regarded
it as a group of families and thus prevented their understanding the
nature and origin of gentes. Under the gentile constitution, the family
never was a unit of organization, nor could it be so, because man and
wife necessarily belonged to two different gentes. The gens was wholly
comprised in the phratry, the phratry in the tribe. But the family
belonged half to the gens of the man, and half to that of the woman. Nor
does the state recognize the family in public law. To this day, the
family has only a place in private law. Yet all historical records take
their departure from the absurd supposition, which was considered almost
inviolate during the eighteenth century, that the monogamous family, an
institution scarcely older than civilization, is the nucleus around
which society and state gradually crystallized.

"Mr. Grote will also please note," throws in Marx, "that the gentes,
which the Greeks traced to their mythologies, are older than the
mythologies. The latter together with their gods and demi-gods were
created by the gentes."

Grote is quoted with preference by Morgan as a prominent and quite
trustworthy witness. He relates that every Attic gens had a name derived
from its alleged ancestor; that before Solon's time, and even after, it
was customary for the gentiles (gennętes) to inherit the fortunes of
their intestate deceased; and that in case of murder first the relatives
of the victim had the duty and the right to prosecute the criminal,
after them the gentiles and finally the phrators. "Whatever we may learn
about the oldest Attic laws is founded on the organization in gentes and

The descent of the gentes from common ancestors has caused the
"schoolbred philistines," as Marx has it, much worry. Representing this
descent as purely mythical, they are at a loss to explain how the gentes
developed out of independent and wholly unrelated families. But this
explanation must be given, if they wish to explain the existence of the
gentes. They then turn around in a circle of meaningless gibberish and
do not get beyond the phrase: the pedigree is indeed a fable, but the
gens is a reality. Grote finally winds up--the parenthetical remarks are
by Marx: "We rarely hear about this pedigree, because it is used in
public only on certain very festive occasions. But the less prominent
gentes had their common religious rites (very peculiar, Mr. Grote!) and
their common superhuman ancestor and pedigree just like the more
prominent gentes (how very peculiar this, Mr. Grote, in less prominent
gentes!); and the ground plan and the ideal fundament (my dear sir! Not
ideal, but carnal, anglice "fleshly") was the same in all of them."

Marx sums up Morgan's reply to this as follows: "The system of
consanguinity corresponding to the archaic form of the gens--which the
Greeks once possessed like other mortals--preserved the knowledge of the
mutual relation of all members of the gens. They learned this important
fact by practice from early childhood. With the advent of the monogamous
family this was gradually forgotten. The gentile name created a pedigree
by the side of which that of the monogamous family seemed insignificant.
This name had now the function of preserving the memory of the common
descent of its bearers. But the pedigree of the gens went so far back
that the gentiles could no longer actually ascertain their mutual
kinship, except in a limited number of more recent common ancestors. The
name itself was the proof of a common descent and sufficed always except
in cases of adoption. To actually dispute all kinship between gentiles
after the manner of Grote and Niebuhr, who thus transform the gens into
a purely hypothetical and fictitious creation of the brain, is indeed
worthy of "ideal" scientists, that is book worms. Because the relation
of the generations, especially on the advent of monogamy, is removed to
the far distance, and the reality of the past seems reflected in
phantastic imaginations, therefore the brave old philistines concluded
and conclude that the imaginary pedigree created real gentes!"

The phratry was, as among the Americans, a mother-gens comprising
several daughter gentes, and often traced them all to the same ancestor.
According to Grote "all contemporaneous members of the phratry of
Hekataeos were descendants in the sixteenth degree of one and the same
divine ancestor." All the gentes of this phratry were therefore
literally brother gentes. The phratry is mentioned by Homer as a
military unit in that famous passage where Nestor advises Agamemnon:
"Arrange the men by phratries and tribes so that phratry may assist
phratry, and tribe the tribe." The phratry has the right and the duty to
prosecute the death of a phrator, hence in former times the duty of
blood revenge. It has, furthermore, common religious rites and
festivals. As a matter of fact, the development of the entire Grecian
mythology from the traditional old Aryan cult of nature was essentially
due to the gentes and phratries and took place within them. The phratry
had an official head (phratriarchos) and also, according to De
Coulanges, meetings and binding resolutions, a jurisdiction and
administration. Even the state of a later period, while ignoring the
gens, left certain public functions to the phratry.

The tribe consisted of several kindred phratries. In Attica there were
four tribes of three phratries each; the number of gentes in each
phratry was thirty. Such an accurate division of groups reveals the fact
of a conscious and well-planned interference with the natural order.
How, when and why this was done is not disclosed by Grecian history. The
historical memory of the Greeks themselves does not reach beyond the
heroic age.

Closely packed in a comparatively small territory as the Greeks were,
their dialectic differences were less conspicuous than those developed
in the wide American forests. Yet even here we find only tribes of the
same main dialect united in a larger organization. Little Attica had its
own dialect which later on became the prevailing language in Grecian

In the epics of Homer we generally find the Greek tribes combined into
small nations, but so that their gentes, phratries and tribes retained
their full independence. They already lived in towns fortified by walls.
The population increased with the growth of the herds, with agriculture
and the beginnings of the handicrafts. At the same time the differences
in wealth became more marked and gave rise to an aristocratic element
within the old primordial democracy. The individual little nations
carried on an unceasing warfare for the possession of the best land and
also for the sake of looting. Slavery of the prisoners of war was
already well established.

The constitution of these tribes and nations was as follows:

1. A permanent authority was the council (bule), originally composed of
the gentile archons, but later on, when their number became too great,
recruited by selection in such a way that the aristocratic element was
developed and strengthened. Dionysios openly speaks of the council at
the time of the heroes as being composed of nobles (kratistoi). The
council had the final decision in all important matters. In Aeschylos,
e. g. the council of Thebes decides that the body of Eteokles be buried
with full honors, the body of Polynikes, however, thrown out to be
devoured by the dogs. With the rise of the state this council was
transformed into the senate.

2. The public meeting (agora). We saw how the Iroquois, men and women,
attended the council meetings, taking an orderly part in the discussions
and influencing them. Among the Homeric Greeks, this attendance had
developed to a complete public meeting. This was also the case with the
Germans of the archaic period. The meeting was called by the council.
Every man could demand the word. The final vote was taken by hand
raising (Aeschylos in "The Suppliants," 607), or by acclamation. The
decision of the meeting was supreme and final. "Whenever a matter is
discussed," says Schoemann in "Antiquities of Greece," "which requires
the participation of the people for its execution, Homer does not
indicate any means by which the people could be forced to it against
their will." It is evident that at a time when every able-bodied member
of the tribe was a warrior, there existed as yet no public power apart
from the people that might have been used against them. The primordial
democracy was still in full force, and by this standard the influence
and position of the council and of the basileus must be judged.

3. The military chief (basileus). Marx makes the following comment: "The
European scientists, mostly born servants of princes, represent the
basileus as a monarch in the modern sense. The Yankee republican Morgan
objects to this. Very ironically but truthfully he says of the oily
Gladstone and his "Juventus Mundi": 'Mr. Gladstone, who presents to his
readers the Grecian chiefs of the heroic age as kings and princes, with
the superadded qualities of gentlemen, is forced to admit that, on the
whole we seem to have the custom or law of primogeniture sufficiently,
but not oversharply defined.' As a matter of fact, Mr. Gladstone himself
must have perceived that a primogeniture resting on a clause of
'sufficient but not oversharp' definition is as bad as none at all."

We saw how the law of heredity was applied to the offices of sachems and
chiefs among the Iroquois and other Indians. All offices were subject to
the vote of the gentiles and for this reason hereditary in the gens. A
vacancy was filled preferably by the next gentile relative--the brother
or the sister's son--unless good reasons existed for passing him. That
in Greece, under paternal law, the office of basileus was generally
transmitted to the son or one of the sons, indicates only that the
probability of succession by public election was in favor of the sons.
It implies by no means a legal succession without a vote of the people.
We here perceive simply the first rudiments of segregated families of
aristocrats among Iroquois and Greeks, which led to a hereditary
leadership or monarchy in Greece. Hence the facts are in favor of the
opinion that among Greeks the basileus was either elected by the people
or at last was subject to the indorsement of their appointed organs, the
council or agora, as was the case with the Roman king (rex).

In the Iliad the ruler of men, Agamemnon, does not appear as the
supreme king of the Greeks, but as general in chief of a federal army
besieging a city. And when dissensions had broken out among the Greeks,
it is this quality which Odysseus points out in a famous passage: "Evil
is the rule of the many; let one be the ruler, one the chief" (to which
the popular verse about the scepter was added later on). Odysseus does
not lecture on the form of government, but demands obedience to the
general in chief.

Considering that the Greeks before Troy appear only in the character of
an army, the proceedings of the agora are sufficiently democratic. In
referring to presents, that is the division of the spoils, Achilles
always leaves the division, not to Agamemnon or some other basileus, but
to the "sons of the Achaeans," the people. The attributes, descendant of
Zeus, bred by Zeus, do not prove anything, because every gens is
descended from some god--the gens of the leader of the tribe from a
"prominent" god, in this case Zeus. Even those who are without personal
freedom, as the swineherd Eumaeos and others, are "divine" (dioi or
theioi), even in the Odyssey, which belongs to a much later period than
the Iliad. In the same Odyssey, the name of "heros" is given to the
herald Mulios as well as to the blind bard Demodokos. In short, the word
"basileia," with which the Greek writers designate the so-called
monarchy of Homer (because the military leadership is its distinguishing
mark, by the side of which the council and the agorâ are existing),
means simply--military democracy (Marx).

The basileus had also sacerdotal and judiciary functions beside those of
a military leader. The judiciary functions are not clearly defined, but
the functions of priesthood are due to his position of chief
representative of the tribe or of the league of tribes. There is never
any mention of civil, administrative functions. But it seems that he
was ex-officio a member of the council. The translation of basileus by
king is etymologically quite correct, because king (Kuning) is derived
from Kuni, Künne, and signifies chief of a gens. But the modern meaning
of the word king in no way designates the functions of the Grecian
basileus. Thucydides expressly refers to the old basileia as patrikę,
that is "derived from the gens," and states that it had well defined
functions. And Aristotle says that the basileia of heroic times was a
leadership of free men and that the basileus was a military chief, a
judge and a high priest. Hence the basileus had no governmental power in
a modern sense.[24]

In the Grecian constitution of heroic times, then, we still find the old
gentilism fully alive, but we also perceive the beginnings of the
elements that undermine it; paternal law and inheritance of property by
the father's children, favoring accumulation of wealth in the family and
giving to the latter a power apart from the gens; influence of the
difference of wealth on the constitution by the formation of the first
rudiments of hereditary nobility and monarchy; slavery, first limited to
prisoners of war, but already paving the way to the enslavement of
tribal and gentile associates; degeneration of the old feuds between
tribes a regular mode of existing by systematic plundering on land and
sea for the purpose of acquiring cattle, slaves, and treasures. In
short, wealth is praised and respected as the highest treasure, and the
old gentile institutions are abused in order to justify the forcible
robbery of wealth. Only one thing was missing: an institution that not
only secured the newly acquired property of private individuals against
the communistic traditions of the gens, that not only declared as sacred
the formerly so despised private property and represented the protection
of this sacred property as the highest purpose of human society, but
that also stamped the gradually developing new forms of acquiring
property, of constantly increasing wealth, with the universal sanction
of society. An institution that lent the character of perpetuity not
only to the newly rising division into classes, but also to the right of
the possessing classes to exploit and rule the non-possessing classes.

And this institution was found. The state arose.


[24] Author's note.

Just as the Grecian basileus, so the Aztec military chief was
misrepresented as a modern prince. Morgan was the first to submit to
historical criticism the reports of the Spaniards who first
misapprehended and exaggerated, and later on consciously misrepresented
the functions of this office. He showed that the Mexicans were in the
middle stage of barbarism, but on a higher plane than the New Mexican
Pueblo Indians, and that their constitution, so far as the garbled
accounts show, corresponded to this stage: a league of three tribes
which had made a number of others tributary and was administered by a
federal council and a federal chief of war, whom the Spaniards construed
into an "emperor."



How the state gradually developed by partly transforming the organs of
the gentile constitution, partly replacing them by new organs and
finally installing real state authorities; how the place of the nation
in arms defending itself through its gentes, phratries and tribes, was
taken by an armed public power of coërcion in the hands of these
authorities and available against the mass of the people; nowhere can we
observe the first act of this drama so well as in ancient Athens. The
essential stages of the various transformations are outlined by Morgan,
but the analysis of the economic causes producing them is largely added
by myself.

In the heroic period, the four tribes of the Athenians were still
installed in separate parts of Attica. Even the twelve phratries
composing them seem to have had separate seats in the twelve different
towns of Cecrops. The constitution was in harmony with the period: a
public meeting (agorâ), a council (bűlę) and a basileus.

As far back as we can trace written history we find the land divided up
and in the possession of private individuals. For during the last period
of the higher stage of barbarism the production of commodities and the
resulting trade had well advanced. Grain, wine and oil were staple
articles. The sea trade on the Aegean Sea drifted more and more out of
the hands of the Phoenicians into those of the Athenians. By the
purchase and sale of land, by continued division of labor between
agriculture and industry, trade and navigation, the members of gentes,
phratries and tribes very soon intermingled. The districts of the
phratry and the tribe received inhabitants who did not belong to these
bodies and, therefore, were strangers in their own homes, although they
were countrymen. For during times of peace, every phratry and every
tribe administered its own affairs without consulting the council of
Athens or the basileus. But inhabitants not belonging to the phratry or
the tribe could not take part in the administration of these bodies.

Thus the well-regulated functions of the gentile organs became so
disarranged that relief was already needed during the heroic period. A
constitution attributed to Theseus was introduced. The main feature of
this change was the institution of central administration in Athens. A
part of the affairs that had so long been conducted autonomously by the
tribes was declared collective business and transferred to a general
council in Athens. This step of the Athenians went farther than any ever
taken by the nations of America. For the simple federation of autonomous
tribes was now replaced by the conglomeration of all tribes into one
single body. The next result was a common Athenian law, standing above
the legal traditions of the tribes and gentes. It bestowed on the
citizens of Athens certain privileges and legal protection, even in a
territory that did not belong to their tribe. This meant another blow to
the gentile constitution; for it opened the way to the admission of
citizens who were not members of any Attic tribe and stood entirely
outside of the Athenian gentile constitution.

A second institution attributed to Theseus was the division of the
entire nation into three classes regardless of the gentes, phratries and
tribes: eupatrides or nobles, geomoroě or farmers, and demiurgoi or
tradesmen. The exclusive privilege of the nobles to fill the offices
was included in this innovation. Apart from this privilege the new
division remained ineffective, as it did not create any legal
distinctions between the classes. But it is important, because it shows
us the new social elements that had developed in secret. It shows that
the habitual holding of gentile offices by certain families had already
developed into a practically uncontested privilege; that these families,
already powerful through their wealth, began to combine outside of their
gentes into a privileged class; and that the just arising state
sanctioned this assumption. It shows furthermore that the division of
labor between farmers and tradesmen had grown strong enough to contest
the supremacy of the old gentile and tribal division of society. And
finally it proclaims the irreconcilable opposition of gentile society to
the state. The first attempt to form a state broke up the gentes by
dividing their members against one another and opposing a privileged
class to a class of disowned belonging to two different branches of

The ensuing political history of Athens up to the time of Solon is only
incompletely known. The office of basileus became obsolete. Archons
elected from the ranks of the nobility occupied the leading position in
the state. The power of the nobility increased continually, until it
became unbearable about the year 600 before Christ. The principal means
for stifling the liberty of the people were--money and usury. The main
seat of the nobility was in and around Athens. There the sea trade and
now and then a little convenient piracy enriched them and concentrated
the money into their hands. From this point the gradually arising money
power penetrated like corrugating acid into the traditional modes of
rural existence founded on natural economy. The gentile constitution is
absolutely irreconcilable with money rule. The ruin of the Attic
farmers coďncided with the loosening of the old gentile bonds that
protected them. The debtor's receipt and the pawning of the
property--for the mortgage was also invented by the Athenians--cared
neither for the gens nor for the phratry. But the old gentile
constitution knew nothing of money, advance and debt. Hence the ever
more virulently spreading money rule of the nobility developed a new
legal custom, securing the creditor against the debtor and sanctioning
the exploitation of the small farmer by the wealthy. All the rural
districts of Attica were crowded with mortgage columns bearing the
legend that the lot on which they stood was mortgaged to such and such
for so much. The fields that were not so designated had for the most
part been sold on account of overdue mortgages or interest and
transferred to the aristocratic usurers. The farmer could thank his
stars, if he was granted permission to live as a tenant on one-sixth of
the product of his labor and to pay five-sixths to his new master in the
form of rent. Worse still, if the sale of the lot did not bring
sufficient returns to cover the debt, or if such a debt had been
contracted without a lien, then the debtor had to sell his children into
slavery abroad in order to satisfy the claim of the creditor. The sale
of the children by the father--that was the first fruit of paternal law
and monogamy! And if that did not satisfy the bloodsuckers, they could
sell the debtor himself into slavery. Such was the pleasant dawn of
civilization among the people of Attica.

Formerly, while the condition of the people was in keeping with gentile
traditions, a similar downfall would have been impossible. But here it
had come about, nobody knew how. Let us return for a moment to the
Iroquois. The state of things that had imposed itself on the Athenians
almost without their doing, so to say, and assuredly against their will,
was inconceivable among the Indians. There the ever unchanging mode of
production could at no time generate such conflicts as a distinction
between rich and poor, exploiters and exploited, caused by external
conditions. The Iroquois were far from controlling the forces of nature,
but within the limits drawn for them by nature they dominated their own
production. Apart from a failure of the crops in their little gardens,
the exhaustion of the fish supply in their lakes and rivers or of the
game stock in their forests, they always knew what would be the outcome
of their mode of gaining a living. A more or less abundant supply of
food, that would come of it. But the outcome could never be any
unpremeditated social upheavals, breaking of gentile bonds or division
of the gentiles against one another by conflicting class interests.
Production was carried on in the most limited manner; but--the producers
controlled their own product. This immense advantage of barbarian
production was lost in the transition to civilization. To win it back on
the basis of man's present gigantic control of nature and of the free
association rendered possible by it, that will be the task of the next

Not so among the Greeks. The advent of private property in herds of
cattle and articles of luxury led to an exchange between individuals, to
a transformation of products into commodities. Here is the root of the
entire revolution that followed. When the producers did no longer
consume their own product, but released their hold of it in exchange for
another's product, then they lost the control of it. They did not know
any more what became of it. There was a possibility that the product
might be turned against the producers for the purpose of exploiting and
oppressing them. No society can, therefore, retain for any length of
time the control of its own production and of the social effects of the
mode of production, unless it abolishes exchange between individuals.

How rapidly after the establishment of individual exchange and after the
transformation of products into commodities the product manifests its
rule over the producer, the Athenians were soon to learn. Along with the
production of marketable commodities came the tilling of the soil by
individual cultivators for their own account, soon followed by
individual ownership of the land. Along came also the money, that
general commodity for which all others could be exchanged. But when men
invented money they little suspected that they were creating a new
social power, that one universal power before which the whole of society
must bow down. It was this new power, suddenly sprung into existence
without the forethought and intention of its own creators, that vented
its rule on the Athenians with the full brutality of youth.

What was to be done? The old gentile organization had not only proved
impotent against the triumphant march of money: it was also absolutely
incapable of containing within its confines any such thing as money,
creditors, debtors and forcible collection of debts. But the new social
power was upon them and neither pious wishes nor a longing for the
return of the good old times could drive money and usury from the face
of the earth. Moreover, gentile constitution had suffered a number of
minor defeats. The indiscriminate mingling of the gentiles and phrators
in the whole of Attica, and especially in Athens, had assumed larger
proportions from generation to generation. Still even now a citizen of
Athens was not allowed to sell his residence outside of his gens,
although he could do so with plots of land. The division of labor
between the different branches of production--agriculture, trades,
numberless specialties within the trades, commerce, navigation,
etc.--had developed more fully with the progress of industry and
traffic. The population was now divided according to occupations into
rather well defined groups, everyone of which had separate interests not
guarded by the gens or phratry and therefore necessitating the creation
of new offices. The number of slaves had increased considerably and must
have surpassed by far that of the free Athenians even at this early
stage. Gentile society originally knew no slavery and was, therefore,
ignorant of any means to hold this mass of bondsmen in check. And
finally, commerce had attracted a great many strangers who settled in
Athens for the sake of the easier living it afforded. According to the
old constitution, the strangers had neither civil rights nor the
protection of the law. Though tacitly admitted by tradition, they
remained a disturbing and foreign element.

In short, gentile constitution approached its doom. Society was daily
growing more and more beyond it. It was powerless to stop or allay even
the most distressing evils that had grown under its very eyes. But in
the meantime the state had secretly developed. The new groups formed by
division of labor, first between city and country, then between the
various branches of city industry, had created new organs for the care
of their interests. Public offices of every description had been
instituted. And above all the young state needed its own fighting
forces. Among the seafaring Athenians this had to be at first only a
navy, for occasional short expeditions and the protection of the
merchant vessels. At some uncertain time before Solon, the naukrariai
were instituted, little territorial districts, twelve in each tribe.
Every naukraria had to furnish, equip and man a war vessel and to detail
two horsemen. This arrangement was a twofold attack on the gentile
constitution. In the first place it created a public power of coërcion
that did no longer absolutely coincide with the entirety of the armed
nation. In the second place it was the first division of the people for
public purposes, not by groups of kinship, but by local residence. We
shall soon see what that signified.

As the gentile constitution could not come to the assistance of the
exploited people, they could look only to the rising state. And the
state brought help in the form of the constitution of Solon. At the same
time it added to its own strength at the expense of the old
constitution. Solon opened the series of so-called political revolutions
by an infringement on private property. We pass over the means by which
this reform was accomplished in the year 594 B. C. or thereabout. Ever
since, all revolutions have been revolutions for the protection of one
kind of property against another kind of property. They cannot protect
one kind without violating another. In the great French revolution the
feudal property was sacrificed for the sake of saving bourgeois
property. In Solon's revolution, the property of the creditors had to
make concessions to the property of the debtors. The debts were simply
declared illegal. We are not acquainted with the accurate details, but
Solon boasts in his poëms that he removed the mortgage columns from the
indented lots and enabled all who had fled or been sold abroad for debts
to return home. This was only feasible by an open violation of private
property. And indeed, all so-called political revolutions were started
for the protection of one kind of property by the confiscation, also
called theft, of another kind of property. It is absolutely true that
for more than 2,500 years private property could only be protected by
the violation of private property.

But now a way had to be found to avoid the return of such an enslavement
of the free Athenians. This was first attempted by general measures, e.
g., the prohibition of contracts giving the person of the debtor in
lien. Furthermore a maximum limit was fixed for the amount of land any
one individual could own, in order to keep the craving of the nobility
for the land of the farmers within reasonable bounds. Constitutional
amendments were next in order. The following deserve special

The council was increased to four hundred members, one hundred from each
tribe. Here, then, the tribe still served as a basis. But this was the
only remnant of the old constitution that was transferred to the new
body politic. For otherwise Solon divided the citizens into four classes
according to their property in land and its yield. Five hundred, three
hundred and one hundred and fifty medimnoi of grain (1 medimnos equals
1.16 bushels) were the minimum yields of the first three classes.
Whoever had less land or none at all belonged to the fourth class. Only
members of the first three classes could hold office; the highest
offices were filled by the first class. The fourth class had only the
right to speak and vote in the public council. But here all officials
were elected, here they had to give account, here all the laws were
made, and here the fourth class was in the majority. The aristocratic
privileges were partly renewed in the form of privileges of wealth, but
the people retained the decisive power. The four classes also formed the
basis for the reorganization of the fighting forces. The first two
classes furnished the horsemen; the third had to serve as heavy
infantry; the fourth was employed as light unarmored infantry and had to
man the navy. Probably the last class also received wages in this case.

An entirely new element is thus introduced into the constitution:
private property. The rights and duties of the citizens are graduated
according to their property in land. Wherever the classification by
property gains ground, there the old groups of blood relationship give
way. Gentile constitution has suffered another defeat.

However, the gradation of political rights according to private property
was not one of those institutions without which a state cannot exist. It
may have been ever so important in the constitutional development of
some states. Still a good many others, and the most completely developed
at that, had no need of it. Even in Athens it played only a passing
role. Since the time of Aristides, all offices were open to all the

During the next eighty years the Athenian society gradually drifted into
the course on which it further developed in the following centuries. The
outrageous land speculation of the time before Solon had been fettered,
likewise the excessive concentration of property in land. Commerce,
trades and artisan handicrafts, which were carried on in an ever larger
scale as slave labor increased, became the ruling factors in gaining a
living. Public enlightenment advanced. Instead of exploiting their own
fellow citizens in the old brutal style, the Athenians now exploited
mainly the slaves and the customers outside. Movable property, wealth in
money, slaves and ships, increased more and more. But instead of being a
simple means for the purchase of land, as in the old stupid times, it
had now become an end in itself. The new class of industrial and
commercial owners of wealth now waged a victorious competition against
the old nobility. The remnants of the old gentile constitution lost
their last hold. The gentes, phratries and tribes, the members of which
now were dispersed all over Attica and completely intermixed, had thus
become unavailable as political groups. A great many citizens of Athens
did not belong to any gens. They were immigrants who had been adopted
into citizenship, but not into any of the old groups of kinship.
Besides, there was a steadily increasing number of foreign immigrants
who were only protected by traditional sufferance.

Meanwhile the struggles of the parties proceeded. The nobility tried to
regain their former privileges and for a short time recovered their
supremacy, until the revolution of Kleisthenes (509 B. C.) brought their
final downfall and completed the ruin of gentile law.

In his new constitution, Kleisthenes ignored the four old tribes founded
on the gentes and phratries. Their place was taken by an entirely new
organization based on the recently attempted division of the citizens
into naukrariai according to residence. No longer was membership in a
group of kindred the dominant fact, but simply local residence. Not the
nation, but the territory was now divided; the inhabitants became mere
political fixtures of the territory.

The whole of Attica was divided into one hundred communal districts,
so-called demoi, every one of which was autonomous. The citizens living
in a demos (demotoi) elected their official head (demarchos), treasurer
and thirty judges with jurisdiction in minor cases. They also received
their own temple and divine guardian or heros, whose priest they
elected. The control of the demos was in the hands of the council of
demotoě. This is, as Morgan correctly remarks, the prototype of the
autonomous American township. The modern state in its highest
development ended in the same unit with which the rising state began its
career in Athens.

Ten of these units (demoi) formed a tribe, which, however, was now
designated as local tribe in order to distinguish it from the old sex
tribe. The local tribe was not only an autonomous political, but also a
military group. It elected the phylarchos or tribal head who commanded
the horsemen, the taxiarchos commanding the infantry and the strategic
leader, who was in command of the entire contingent raised in the tribal
territory by conscription. The local tribe furthermore furnished,
equipped and fully manned five war vessels. It was designated by the
name of the Attic hero who was its guardian deity. It elected fifty
councilmen into the council of Athens.

Thus we arrive at the Athenian state, governed by a council of five
hundred elected by and representing the ten tribes and subject to the
vote of the public meeting, where every citizen could enter and vote.
Archons and other officials attended to the different departments of
administration and justice.

By this new constitution and by the admission of a large number of
aliens, partly freed slaves, partly immigrants, the organs of gentile
constitution were displaced in public affairs. They became mere private
and religious clubs. But their moral influence, the traditional
conceptions and views of the old gentile period, survived for a long
time and expired only gradually. This was evident in another state

We have seen that an essential mark of the state consists in a public
power of coërcion divorced from the mass of the people. Athens possessed
at that time only a militia and a navy equipped and manned directly by
the people. These afforded protection against external enemies and held
the slaves in check, who at that time already made up the large majority
of the population. For the citizens, this coërcive power at first only
existed in the shape of the police, which is as old as the state. The
innocent Frenchmen of the 18th century, therefore, had the habit of
speaking not of civilized, but of policed nations (nations policées).
The Athenians, then, provided for a police in their new state, a
veritable "force" of bowmen on foot and horseback. This police force
consisted--of slaves. The free Athenian regarded this police duty as so
degrading that he preferred being arrested by an armed slave rather than
lending himself to such an ignominious service. That was still a sign of
the old gentile spirit. The state could not exist without a police, but
as yet it was too young and did not command sufficient moral respect to
give prestige to an occupation that necessarily appeared ignominious to
the old gentiles.

How well this state, now completed in its main outlines, suited the
social condition of the Athenians was apparent by the rapid growth of
wealth, commerce and industry. The distinction of classes on which the
social and political institutions are resting was no longer between
nobility and common people, but between slaves and freemen, aliens and
citizens. At the time of the greatest prosperity the whole number of
free Athenian citizens, women and children included, amounted to about
90,000; the slaves of both sexes numbered 365,000 and the
aliens--foreigners and freed slaves--45,000. Per capita of each adult
citizen there were, therefore, at least eighteen slaves and more than
two aliens. The great number of slaves is explained by the fact that
many of them worked together in large factories under supervision. The
development of commerce and industry brought about an accumulation and
concentration of wealth in a few hands. The mass of the free citizens
were impoverished and had to face the choice of either competing with
their own labor against slave labor, which was considered ignoble and
vile, besides promising little success, or to be ruined. Under the
prevailing circumstances they necessarily chose the latter course and
being in the majority they ruined the whole Attic state. Not democracy
caused the downfall of Athens, as the European glorifiers of princes and
lickspittle schoolmasters would have us believe, but slavery
ostracizing the labor of the free citizen.

The origin of the state among the Athenians presents a very typical form
of state organization. For it took place without any marring external
interference or internal obstruction--the usurpation of Pisistratos left
no trace of its short duration. It shows the direct rise of a highly
developed form of a state, the democratic republic, out of gentile
society. And finally, we are sufficiently acquainted with all the
essential details of the process.



The legend of the foundation of Rome sets forth that the first
colonization was undertaken by a number of Latin gentes (one hundred, so
the legend says) united into one tribe. A Sabellian tribe (also said to
consist of one hundred gentes) soon followed, and finally a third tribe
of various elements, but again numbering one hundred gentes, joined
them. The whole tale reveals at the first glance that little more than
the gens was borrowed from reality, and that the gens itself was in
certain cases only an offshoot of an old mother gens still existing at
home. The tribes bear the mark of artificial composition on their
foreheads; still they were made up of kindred elements and after the
model of the old spontaneous, not artificial tribe. At the same time it
is not impossible that a genuine old tribe formed the nucleus of every
one of these three tribes. The connecting link, the phratry, contained
ten gentes and was called curia. Hence there were thirty curiae.

The Roman gens is recognized as an institution identical with the
Grecian gens. The Grecian gens being a continuation of the same social
unit, the primordial form of which we found among the American Indians,
the same holds naturally good of the Roman gens, and we can be more
concise in its treatment.

At least during the most ancient times of the city, the Roman gens had
the following constitution:

1. Mutual right of inheritance for gentiles; the wealth remained in the
gens. Paternal law being already in force in the Roman the same as in
the Grecian gens, the offspring of female lineage were excluded.
According to the law of the twelve tablets, the oldest written law of
Rome known to us, the natural children had the first title to the
estate; in case no natural children existed, the agnati (kin of male
lineage) took their place; and last in line came the gentiles. In all
cases the property remained in the gens. Here we observe the gradual
introduction of new legal provisions, caused by increased wealth and
monogamy, into the gentile practice. The originally equal right of
inheritance of the gentiles was first limited in practice to the agnati,
no doubt at a very remote date, and afterwards to the natural children
and their offspring of male lineage. Of course this appears in the
reverse order on the twelve tablets.

2. Possession of a common burial ground. The patrician gens Claudia, on
immigrating into Rome from Regilli, was assigned to a separate lot of
land and received its own burial ground in the city. As late as the time
of Augustus, the head of Varus, who had been killed in the Teutoburger
Wald, was brought to Rome and interred in the gentilitius tumulus; hence
his gens (Quinctilia) still had its own tomb.

3. Common religious rites. These are well-known under the name of sacra

4. Obligation not to intermarry in the gens. It seems that this was
never a written law in Rome, but the custom remained. Among the
innumerable names of Roman couples preserved for us there is not a
single case, where husband and wife had the same gentile name. The law
of inheritance proves the same rule. By marrying, a woman loses her
agnatic privileges, discards her gens, and neither she nor her children
have any title to her father's estate nor to that of his brothers,
because otherwise the gens of her father would lose his property. This
rule has a meaning only then when the woman is not permitted to marry a

5. A common piece of land. In primeval days this was always obtained
when the tribal territory was first divided. Among the Latin tribes we
find the land partly in the possession of the tribe, partly of the gens,
and partly of the households that could hardly represent single families
at such an early date. Romulus is credited with being the first to
assign land to single individuals, about 2.47 acres (two jugera) per
head. But later on we still find some land in the hands of the gentes,
not to mention the state land, around which turns the whole internal
history of the republic.

6. Duty of the gentiles to mutually protect and assist one another.
Written history records only remnants of this law. The Roman state from
the outset manifested such superior power, that the duty of protection
against injury devolved upon it. When Appius Claudius was arrested, his
whole gens, including his personal enemies, dressed in mourning. At the
time of the second Punic war the gentes united for the purpose of
ransoming their captured gentiles. The senate vetoed this.

7. Right to bear the gentile name. This was in force until the time of
the emperors. Freed slaves were permitted to assume the gentile name of
their former master, but this did not bestow any gentile rights on them.

8. Right of adopting strangers into the gens. This was done by adoption
into the family (the same as among the Indians) which brought with it
the adoption into the gens.

9. The right to elect and depose chiefs is not mentioned anywhere. But
inasmuch as during the first years of Rome's existence all offices were
filled by election or nomination, from the king downward, and as the
curiae elected also their own priests, we are justified in assuming the
same in regard to gentile chiefs (principes)--no matter how well
established the rule of choosing the candidates from the same family
have been.

Such were the constitutional rights of a Roman gens. With the exception
of the completed transition to paternal law, they are the true image of
the rights and duties of an Iroquois gens. Here, also, "the Iroquois is
still plainly visible."

How confused the ideas of our historians, even the most prominent of
them, are when it comes to a discussion of the Roman gens, is shown by
the following example: In Mommsen's treatise on the Roman family names
of the Republican and Augustinian era (Römische Forschungen, Berlin,
1864, Vol. I.) he writes: "The gentile name was not only borne by all
male gentiles including all adopted and wards, except, of course, the
slaves, but also by the women.... The tribe (so Mommsen translates gens)
is a common organization resulting from a common--actual, assumed or
even invented--ancestor and united by common rites, burial grounds and
customs of inheritance. All free individuals, hence women also, may and
must claim membership in them. But the definition of the gentile name of
the married women offers some difficulty. This is indeed obviated, as
long as women were not permitted to marry any one but their gentiles.
And we have proofs that for a long time the women found it much more
difficult to marry outside than inside of the gens. This right of
marrying outside, the gentis enuptio, was still bestowed as a personal
privilege and reward during the sixth century.... But wherever such
outside marriages occurred in primeval times, the woman must have been
transferred to the tribe of her husband. Nothing is more certain than
that by the old religious marriage woman was completely adopted into
the legal and sacramental group of her husband and divorced from her
own. Who does not know that the married woman releases her active and
passive right of inheritance in favor of her gentiles, but enters the
legal group of her husband, her children and his gentiles? And if her
husband adopts her as his child into his family, how can she remain
separated from his gens?" (Pages 9-11.)

Here Mommsen asserts that the Roman women belonging to a certain gens
were originally free to marry only within their gens; the Roman gens,
according to him, was therefore endogamous, not exogamous. This opinion
which contradicts the evidence of all other nations, is principally, if
not exclusively, founded on a single much disputed passage of Livy (Book
xxxix, c. 19). According to this passage, the senate decreed in the year
568 of the city, i. e., 186 B. C., (uti Feceniae Hispallae datió,
deminutio, gentis enuptio, tutoris optio idem esset quasi ei vir
testamento dedisset; utique ei ingenuo nubere liceret, neu quid ei qui
eam duxisset, ob id fraudi ignominiaeve esset)--that Fecenia Hispalla
shall have the right to dispose of her property, to diminish it, to
marry outside of the gens, to choose a guardian, just as if her (late)
husband had conferred this right on her by testament; that she shall be
permitted to marry a freeman and that for the man who marries her this
shall not constitute a misdemeanor or a shame.

Without a doubt Fecenia, a freed slave, here obtains permission to marry
outside of the gens. And equally doubtless the husband here has the
right to confer on his wife by testament the right to marry outside of
the gens after his death. But outside of which gens?

If a woman had to intermarry in the gens, as Mommsen assumes, then she
remained in this gens after her marriage. But in the first place, this
assertion of an endogamous gens must be proven. And in the second
place, if the women had to intermarry in the gens, then the men had to
do the same, otherwise there could be no marriage. Then we arrive at the
conclusion that the man could bequeath a right to his wife, which he did
not have for himself. This is a legal impossibility. Mommsen feels this
very well, and hence he supposes: "The marriage outside of the gens most
probably required not only the consent of the testator, but of all
gentiles." (Page 10, footnote.) This is not only a very daring
assertion, but contradicts also the clear wording of the passage. The
senate gives her this right as a proxy of her husband; they expressly
give her no more and no less than her husband could have given her, but
what they do give is an absolute right, independent of all limitations,
so that, if she should make use of it, her new husband shall not suffer
in consequence. The senate even instructs the present and future consuls
and praetors to see that no inconvenience arise to her from the use of
this right. Mommsen's supposition is therefore absolutely inadmissible.

Then again: suppose a woman married a man from another gens, but
remained in her own gens. According to the passage quoted above, her
husband would then have had the right to permit his wife to marry
outside of her own gens. That is, he would have had the right to make
provisions in regard to the affairs of a gens to which he did not belong
at all. The thing is so utterly unreasonable that we need not lose any
words about it.

Nothing remains but to assume that the woman in her first marriage
wedded a man from another gens and thereby became a member of her
husband's gens. Mommsen admits this for such cases. Then the whole
matter at once explains itself. The woman, torn away from her old gens
by her marriage and adopted into the gentile group of her husband,
occupies a peculiar position in the new gens. She is now a gentile, but
not a kin by blood. The manner of her entrance from the outset excludes
all prohibition of intermarrying in the gens, into which she has come by
marriage. She is adopted into the family relations of the gens and
inherits some of the property of her husband when he dies, the property
of a gentile. What is more natural than that this property should remain
in the gens and that she should be obliged to marry a gentile of her
husband and no other? If, however, an exception is to be made, who is so
well entitled to authorize her as her first husband who bequeathed his
property to her? At the moment when he bequeathes on her a part of his
property and simultaneously gives her permission to transfer this
property by marriage or as a result of marriage to a strange gens, he
still is the owner of this property, hence he literally disposes of his
personal property. As for the woman and her relation to the gens of her
husband, it is he who by an act of his own free will--the
marriage--introduced her into his gens. Therefore it seems quite natural
that he should be the proper person to authorize her to leave this gens
by another marriage. In short, the matter appears simple and obvious, as
soon as we discard the absurd conception of an endogamous Roman gens and
accept Morgan's originally exogamous gens.

There is still another view which has probably found the greatest number
of advocates. According to them the passage in Livy only means "that
freed slave girls (libertae) cannot without special permission, e gente
enubere (marry outside of the gens) or undertake any of the steps which,
together with capitis deminutio minima[25] (the loss of family rights)
would lead to a transfer of the liberta to another gens." (Lange,
Römische Alterthümer, Berlin, 1856, I, p. 185, where our passage from
Livy is explained by a reference to Huschke.) If this view is correct,
then the passage proves still less for the relations of free Roman
women, and there is so much less ground for speaking of their obligation
to intermarry in the gens.

The expression enuptio gentis (marriage outside of the gens) occurs only
in this single passage and is not found anywhere else in the entire
Roman literature. The word enubere (to marry outside) is found only
three times likewise in Livy, and not in reference to the gens. The
phantastic idea that Roman women had to intermarry in the gens owes its
existence only to this single passage. But it cannot be maintained. For
either the passage refers to special restrictions for freed slave women,
in which case it proves nothing for free women (ingenuae). Or it applies
also to free women, in which case it rather proves that the women as a
rule married outside of the gens and were transferred by their marriage
to their husbands' gens. This would be a point for Morgan against

Almost three hundred years after the foundation of Rome the gentile
bonds were still so strong that a patrician gens, the Fabians, could
obtain permission from the senate to undertake all by itself a war
expedition against the neighboring town of Veii. Three hundred and six
Fabians are said to have marched and to have been killed from ambush.
Only one boy was left behind to propagate the gens.

Ten gentes, we said, formed a phratry, named curia. It was endowed with
more important functions than the Grecian phratry. Every curia had its
own religious rites, sacred possessions and priests. The priests of one
curia in a body formed one of the Roman clerical collegiums. Ten curiae
formed a tribe which probably had originally its own elected
chief--leader in war and high priest--like the rest of the Latin tribes.
The three tribes together formed the populus Romanus, the Roman people.

Hence nobody could belong to the Roman people, unless he was a member of
a Roman gens, and thus a member of a curia and tribe. The first
constitution of the Roman people was as follows. Public affairs were
conducted by the Senate composed, as Niebuhr was the first to state
correctly, of the chiefs of the three hundred gentes. Because they were
the elders of the gentes they were called patres, fathers, and as a body
senatus, council of elders, from senex, old. Here also the customary
choice of men from the same family of the gens brought to life the first
hereditary nobility. These families were called patricians and claimed
the exclusive right to the seats in the senate and to all other offices.
The fact that in the course of time the people admitted this claim so
that it became an actual privilege is confirmed by the legendary report
that Romulus bestowed the rank of patrician and its privileges on the
first senators. The senate, like the Athenian boulę, had to make the
final decision in many affairs and to undertake the preliminary
discussion of more important matters, especially of new laws. These were
settled by the public meeting, the so-called comitia curiata (assembly
of curiae.) The people met in curiae, probably grouped by gentes, and
every one of the thirty curiae had one vote. The assembly of curiae
adopted or rejected all laws, elected all higher officials including the
rex (so-called king), declared war (but the senate concluded peace), and
decided as a supreme court, on appeal, all cases involving capital
punishment of Roman citizens. By the side of the senate and the public
meeting stood the rex, corresponding to the Grecian basileus, and by no
means, such an almost absolute king as Mommsen would have it.[26] The
rex was also a military leader, a high priest and a chairman of certain
courts. He had no other functions, nor any power over life, liberty and
property of the citizens, except such as resulted from his disciplinary
power as military leader or from his executive power as president of a
court. The office of rex was not hereditary. On the contrary, he was
elected, probably on the suggestion of his predecessor, by the assembly
of curiae and then solemnly invested by a second assembly. That he could
also be deposed is proved by the fate of Tarquinius Superbus.

As the Greeks at the time of the heroes, so the Romans at the time of
the so-called kings lived in a military democracy based on and developed
from a constitution of gentes, phratries and tribes. What though the
curiae and tribes were partly artificial formations, they were moulded
after the genuine and spontaneous models of a society from which they
originated and that still surrounded them on all sides. And though the
sturdy patrician nobility had already gained ground, though the reges
attempted gradually to enlarge the scope of their functions--all this
does not change the elementary and fundamental character of the
constitution, and this alone is essential.

Meantime the population of the city of Rome and of the Roman territory,
enlarged by conquest, increased partly by immigration, partly through
the inhabitants of the annexed districts, Latins most of them. All these
new members of the state (we disregard here the clients) stood outside
of the old gentes, curiae and tribes and so did not form a part of the
populus Romanus, the Roman people proper. They were personally free,
could own land, had to pay taxes and were subject to military service.
But they were not eligible to office and could neither take part in the
assembly of curiae nor in the distribution of conquered state lands.
They made up the mass of people excluded from all public rights, the
plebs. By their continually growing numbers, their military training and
armament they became a threat for the old populus who now closed their
ranks hermetically against all new elements. The land seems to have been
about evenly divided between populus and plebs, while the mercantile and
industrial wealth, though as yet not very considerable, may have been
mainly in the hands of the plebs.

In view of the utter darkness that enwraps the whole legendary origin of
Rome's historical beginning--a darkness that was rendered still more
intense by the rationalistic and overofficious interpretations and
reports of the juristically trained authors that wrote on the
subject--it is impossible to make any definite statements about the
time, the course and the motive of the revolution that put an end to the
old gentile constitution. We are certain only that the causes arose out
of the fights between the plebs and the populus.

The new constitution, attributed to rex Servius Tullius and following
the Grecian model, more especially that of Solon, created a new public
assembly including or excluding all the members of populus and plebs
according to whether they rendered military service or not. The whole
population, subject to enlistment, was divided into six classes
according to wealth. The lowest limitis in the five highest classes
were: I., 100,000 ass; II., 75,000; III., 50,000; IV., 25,000; V.,
11,000; which according to Dureau de la Malle is equal to about $3,155,
$2,333, $1,555, $800, and $388. The sixth class, the proletarians,
consisted of those who possessed less and were exempt from military
service and taxes. In this new assembly of centuriae (comitia
centuriata) the citizens formed ranks after the manner of soldiers, in
companies of one hundred (centuria), and every centuria had one vote.
Now the first class placed 80 centuriae in the field; the second 22, the
third 20, the fourth 22, the fifth 30 and the sixth, for propriety's
sake, one. To this were added 18 centuriae of horsemen composed of the
most wealthy. Hence, there were 193 centuriae, giving a lowest majority
vote of 97. Now the horsemen and the first class alone had together 98
votes. Being in the majority, they had only to agree, and they could
pass any resolution without asking the consent of the other classes.

This new assembly of centuriae assumed all the political rights of the
former assembly of curiae, a few nominal privileges excepted. The curiae
and the gentes composing them now were degraded to mere private and
religious congregations, analogous to their Attic prototypes, and as
such they vegetated on for a long time. But the assembly of curiae soon
became obsolete. In order to drive also the three old tribes out of
existence, a system of four local tribes was introduced. Every tribe was
assigned to one quarter of the city and received certain political

Thus the old social order of blood kinship was destroyed also in Rome
even before the abolition of the so-called royalty. A new constitution,
founded on territorial division and difference of wealth took its place
and virtually created the state. The public power of coërcion consisted
here of citizens liable to military duty, to be used against the slaves
and the so-called proletarians who were excluded from military service
and general armament.

After the expulsion of the last rex, Tarquinius Superbus, who had really
usurped royal power, the new constitution was further improved by the
institution of two military leaders (consuls) with equal powers,
analogous to the custom of the Iroquois. The whole history of the Roman
republic moves inside of this constitution: the struggles between
patricians and plebs for admission to office and participation in the
allotment of state lands, the merging of the patrician nobility in the
new class of large property and money owners; the gradual absorption by
the latter of all the land of the small holders who had been ruined by
military service; the cultivation of these enormous new tracts by
slaves; the resulting depopulation of Italy which not only opened the
doors to the imperial tyrants, but also to their successors, the German


[25] Translator's note.

The term caput received the meaning of legal right of a person from the
legal status of the head of a family.... Legal science extended the
meaning of the term so that it related not alone to slaves, but also to
minors and women. This legal right, so conceived, could be curtailed in
three ways: Capitis deminutio maxima was the loss of the status
libertatis (personal liberty), which included the loss of the status
civitatis and familiae (civil and family rights); the capitis deminutio
minor or media was the loss of the status civitatis (civil rights),
including the loss of the status familiae (family rights); the capitis
deminutio minima was the loss of the status familiae (family rights).
Lange, Römische Alterthümer, Berlin, 1876, Vol. I., p. 204.

[26] Author's note.

The Latin rex is equivalent to the Celtic-Irish righ (tribal chief) and
the Gothic reiks. That this, like the German Fürst, English first and
Danish forste, originally signified gentile or tribal chief is evident
from the fact that the Goths in the fourth century already had a special
term for the king of later times, the military chief of a whole nation,
viz., thiudans. In Ulfila's translation of the Bible Artaxerxes and
Herod are never called reiks, but thiudans, and the empire of the
emperor Tiberius not reiki, but thiudinassus. In the name of the Gothic
thiudans, or king as we inaccurately translate, Thiudareiks (Theodoric,
German Dietrich), both names flow together.



Space forbids a consideration of the gentile institutions found in a
more or less pure form among the savage and barbarian races of the
present day; or of the traces of such institutions, discovered in the
ancient history of civilized nations in Asia. One or the other are met
everywhere. A few illustrations may suffice: Even before the gens had
been recognized, it was pointed out and accurately described in its main
outlines by the man who took the greatest pains to misunderstand it,
McLennan, who wrote of this institution among the Kalmucks, the
Circassians, the Samoyeds and three Indian nations: the Warals, the
Magars and the Munnipurs. Recently it was described by M. Kovalevsky,
who discovered it among the Pshavs, Shevsurs, Svanets and other
Caucasian tribes. A few short notes about the existence of the gens
among Celts and Germans may find a place here.

The oldest Celtic laws preserved for us still show the gens in full
bloom. In Ireland, it is alive in the popular instinct to this day,
after it has been forced out of actual existence by the English. It was
in full force in Scotland until the middle of the eighteenth century,
and here it also succumbed only to the weapons, laws and courts of the

The old Welsh laws, written several centuries before the English
invasion, not later than the 11th century, still show collective
agriculture of whole villages, although only exceptionally and as the
survival of a former universal custom. Every family had five acres for
its special use; another lot was at the same time cultivated
collectively and its yield divided among the different families. In view
of Irish and Scotch analogies it cannot be doubted that these village
communities represent gentes or subdivisions of gentes, even though a
repeated investigation of the Welsh laws, which I cannot undertake from
lack of time (my notes are from 1869), should not directly corroborate
this. One thing, however, is plainly proven by the Welsh and Irish laws,
namely that the pairing family had not yet given way to monogamy among
the Celts of the 11th century. In Wales, marriage did not become
indissoluble by divorce, or rather by notification, until after seven
years. Even if no more than three nights were lacking to make up the
seven years, a married couple could still separate. Their property was
divided among them: the woman made the division, the man selected his
share. The furniture was divided according to certain very funny rules.
If the marriage was dissolved by the man, he had to return the woman's
dowry and a few other articles; if the woman wished a separation, then
she received less. Of three children the man took two, the woman one,
viz., the second child. If the woman married again after her divorce,
and her first husband claimed her back, she was obliged to follow him,
even if she had one foot in her new husband's bed. But if two had lived
together for seven years, they were considered man and wife, even
without the preliminaries of a formal marriage. Chasteness of the girls
before marriage was by no means strictly observed, nor was it required.
The regulations regarding this subject are of an extremely frivolous
nature and in contradiction with civilized morals. When a woman
committed adultery, her husband had a right to beat her--this was one of
three cases when he could do so without incurring a penalty--but after
that he could not demand any other satisfaction, for "the same crime
shall either be atoned for or avenged, but not both." The reasons that
entitled a woman to a divorce without curtailing her claims to a fair
settlement were of a very diverse nature: bad breath of the man was
sufficient. The ransom to be paid to the chief or king for the right of
the first night (gobr merch, hence the medieval name marcheta, French
marquette) plays a conspicuous part in the code of laws. The women had
the right to vote in the public meetings. Add to this that similar
conditions are vouched for in Ireland; that marriage on time was also
quite the custom there, and that the women were assured of liberal and
well defined privileges in case of divorce, even to the point of
remuneration for domestic services; that a "first wife" existed by the
side of others, and that legal and illegal children without distinction
received a share of their deceased parent's property--and we have a
picture of the pairing family among the Celts. The marriage laws of the
American Indians seem strict in comparison to the Celtic, but this is
not surprising when we remember that the Celts were still living in
group marriage at Cesar's time.

The Irish gens (Sept; the tribe was called clainne, clan) is confirmed
and described not alone by the ancient law codes, but also by the
English jurists of the 17th century who were sent across for the purpose
of transforming the clan lands into royal dominions. Up to this time,
the soil had been the collective property of the gens or the clan,
except where the chiefs had already claimed it as their private
dominion. When a gentile died, and a household was thus dissolved, the
gentile chief (called caput cognationis by the English jurists) made a
new assignment of the whole gentile territory to the rest of the
household. This division of land probably took place according to such
rules as were observed in Germany. Until about fifty years ago, village
marks were quite frequent, and some of these so-called rundales may be
found to this day. The farmers of a rundale, individual tenants on the
soil that once was the collective property of the gens, but had been
confiscated by the English conquerors, each pay the rent for his
respective parcel. But they all combine their lands and parcel it off
according to situation and quality. These parcels, called "Gewanne" on
the German river Mosel, are cultivated collectively and their yield is
divided into shares. Marshland and pastures are used in common. Fifty
years ago, new divisions were still made occasionally, sometimes
annually. The field map of such a rundale village looks exactly like
that of a German "Gehöferschaft" (farming commune) on the Mosel or in
the Hochwald. The gens also survives in the "factions." The Irish
farmers often form parties that seem to be founded on absolutely
contradictory or senseless distinctions, quite incomprehensible to
Englishmen. The only purpose of these factions is apparently to rally
for the popular sport of hammering the life out of one another. They are
artificial reincarnations, modern substitutes for the dispersed gentes
that demonstrate the continuation of the old gentile instinct in their
own peculiar manner. By the way, in some localities the gentiles are
still living together on what is practically their old territory. During
the thirties, for instance, the great majority of the inhabitants of the
old county of Monaghan had only four family names, i. e., they were
descended from four gentes or tribes (clans).[27]

The downfall of the gentile order in Scotland dates from the
suppression of the revolt in 1745. What link of this order the Scotch
clan represented remains to be investigated; that it is a link, is
beyond doubt. Walter Scott's novels bring this Scotch highland clan
vividly before our eyes. It is, as Morgan says, "an excellent type of
the gens in organization and in spirit, and an extraordinary
illustration of the power of the gentile life over its members.... We
find in their feuds and blood revenge, in their localization by gentes,
in their use of lands in common, in the fidelity of the clansman to his
chief and of the members of the clan to each other, the usual and
persistent features of gentile society.... Descent was in the male line,
the children of the males remaining members of the clan, while the
children of its female members belonged to the clans of their respective
fathers." The fact that matriarchal law was formerly in force in
Scotland is proved by the royal family of the Picts, who according to
Beda observed female lineage. Even a survival of the Punaluan family had
been preserved among the Scots, as among the Welsh. For until the middle
ages, the chief of the clan or king, the last representatives of the
former common husbands, had the right to claim the first night with
every bride, unless a ransom was given.

It is an indisputable fact, that the Germans were organized in gentes
up to the time of the great migrations. The territory between the
Danube, the Rhine, the Vistula and the northern seas was evidently
occupied by them only a few centuries before Christ. The Cimbri and
Teutons were then still in full migration, and the Suebi did not settle
down until Cesar's time. Cesar expressly states that they settled down
in gentes and kins (gentibus cognatibusque), and in the mouth of a Roman
of the gens Julia this term gentibus has a definite meaning, that no
amount of disputation can obliterate. This holds good for all Germans.
It seems that even the provinces taken by them from the Romans were
settled by distribution to gentes. The Alemanian code of laws affirms
that the people settled in gentes (genealogiae) on the conquered land
south of the Danube. Genealogia is used in exactly the same sense as was
later on Mark--or Dorfgenossenschaft (mark or village community).
Kovalevsky recently maintained that these genealogiae were the great
household communities among which the land was divided, and from which
the village communities developed later on. The same may be true of the
fara, by which term the Burgundians and Langobards--a Gothic and a
Herminonian or High German tribe--designated nearly, if not exactly, the
same thing as the Alemanian genealogiae. Whether this is really the gens
or the household community, must be settled by further investigation.

The language records leave us in doubt, whether all the Germans had a
common expression for gens or not, and as to what this term was.
Etymologically, the Gothic, kuni, middle High German künne, corresponds
to the Grecian genos and the Latin gens, and is used in the same sense.
We are led back to the time of matriarchy by the terms for "woman" which
are derived from the same root: Greek gynę, Slav zenâ, Gothic qvino,
Norse kona, kuna.

Among Langobards and Burgundians, I repeat, we find the term fara which
Grimm derives from the hypothetical root fisan, to beget. I should
prefer to trace it to the more obvious root faran, German fahren, to
ride or to wander, in order to designate a certain well defined section
of the wandering corps, composed quite naturally of relatives. As a
result of centuries of wanderings from West to East and back again, this
term was gradually applied to the sex group itself.

There is furthermore the Gothic sibja, Anglosaxon sib, old High German
sippia, sippa, High German sippe. Old Norse has only the plural sifjar,
the relatives; the singular occurs only as the name of a goddess, Sif.

Finally, another expression occurs in the Hildebrand Song, where
Hildebrand asks Hadubrand "who is your father among the men of the
nation ... or what is your kin?" (eddo huęllihhes cnuosles du sîs).

If there was a common German term for gens, it was presumably the Gothic
kuni. This is not only indicated by its identity with the corresponding
term in related languages, but also by the fact that the word kuning,
German König, English king, is derived from it, all of which originally
signified chief of gens or tribe. Sibja, German Sippe (relationship),
does not appear worthy of consideration. In old Norse, at least, sifjar
signifies not alone kin by blood, but also kin through marriage; hence
it comprises the members of at least two gentes, and the term sif cannot
have been applied to the gens itself.

In the order of battle, the Germans, like the Mexicans and Greeks,
arranged the horsemen as well as the wedge-like columns of the troops on
foot by gentes. Tacitus' indefinite expression, "by families and
kinships," is explained by the fact that at his time the gens had long
ceased to be a living body in Rome.

Another passage of Tacitus is decisive. There he says: "The mother's
brother regards his nephew as his son; some even hold that the bond of
blood between the maternal uncle and the nephew is more sacred and close
than that between father and son, so that when persons are demanded as
securities, the sister's son is considered a better security than the
natural son of the man whom they desire to place under bonds." Here we
have a living proof of the matriarchal, and hence natural, gens, and it
is described as a characteristic mark of the Germans.[28] If a member of
such a gens gave his own son as a security for the fulfillment of a vow
and this son became the victim of his father's breach of faith, that was
the concern of the father alone. But when the son of a sister was
sacrificed, then the most sacred gentile law was violated. The next
relative who was bound above all others to protect the boy or young man,
was held responsible for his death; either he should not have given the
boy in bail or he should have kept the contract. If we had no other
trace of gentile law among the Germans, this one passage would be
sufficient proof of its existence.

But there is another passage in the Old Norse song of the "Dawn of the
Gods" and the "End of the World," the Völuspâ, which is still stronger
evidence, because it is 800 years younger. In this "Vision of the
Seeress," in which Bang and Bugge have now demonstrated the existence of
Christian elements, also, the description of the time of general
degeneration and corruption inaugurating the great catastrophe contains
this passage:

     Broedbr munu berjask ok at bönum verdask
     Munu systrungar sifjum spilla.

"Brothers will wage war against one another and become each other's
murderers, and sisters' children will break the bonds of blood."
Systrungr means the son of the mother's sister, and an abnegation of the
blood kinship from that side surpasses in the eyes of the poet even the
crime of fratricide. There is a deliberate climax in that systrungar,
emphasizing the maternal kinship. If the term syskina-börn, brother's
and sister's children, or syskina-synir, brother's and sister's sons,
had been used, there would have been a weakening of the effect, instead
of a climax. That shows that even at the time of the Vikings, when the
Völuspâ was composed, the recollection of maternal law was not yet
blotted out.

Among the Germans with whom Tacitus was familiar maternal law had
already given way to paternal lineage. The children were the next heirs
of the father; in the absence of children, the brothers and uncles on
both sides were next in line. The admission of the mother's brother to
the inheritance is a relic of maternal law and proves that paternal law
had only recently been introduced by the Germans. Traces of maternal law
were preserved until late in the middle ages. It seems that even at this
late date people still felt certain misgivings about the reliability of
fatherhood, especially among serfs. For when a feudal lord demanded the
return of a fugitive serf from a city, it was first required, for
instance in Augsburg, Basel and Kaiserslautern, that the fact of his
serfdom should be established by the oaths of six of his next blood
relations, all of whom had to belong to his mother's kin. (Maurer,
Städteverfassung, I, page 381.)

Another relic of declining matriarchy was the (from the Roman
standpoint) almost inexplicable respect of the Germans for the female
sex. Young girls of noble family were considered the safest bonds to
secure the keeping of contracts with Germans. In battle, nothing
stimulated their courage so much as the horrible thought that their
wives and daughters might be captured and carried into slavery. A woman
was to them something holy and prophetical, and they listened to her
advice in the most important matters. Veleda, the Bructerian priestess
on the river Lippe, was the soul of the insurrection of the Batavians,
in which Civilis at the head of German and Belgian tribes shook the
foundations of Roman rule in Gaul. The women held undisputed sway in the
house. If we may believe Tacitus, they, together with the old men and
children, had to do all the work, for the men went hunting, drank and
loafed. But as Tacitus does not say who cultivated the fields, and as
according to his explicit statement the slaves paid only tithes, but did
not work under compulsion, it seems that the adult men would have had to
do what little agricultural work was required.

The form of marriage, as stated above, was the pairing family in gradual
transition to monogamy. It was not yet strict monogamy, for polygamy was
permitted for the wealthy. Chasteness of the girls was in general
carefully maintained, different from the custom of the Celts. Tacitus
speaks with special ardor of the sacredness of the matrimonial bond
among the Germans. Adultery of the woman is alone quoted by him as a
reason for a divorce. But his treatment of this subject leaves many a
flaw and besides, it too openly holds up the mirror of virtue to the
dissipated Romans. So much is certain: Granted that the Germans were
such exceptional models of virtue in their forests, it required only a
short contact with the outer world to bring them down to the level of
the other average Europeans. In the whirl of Roman life the last trace
of pure morals disappeared even faster than the German language. Just
read Gregorius of Tours. It is obvious that in the primeval forests of
Germany no such hyper-refined voluptuousness could exist as in Rome.
That implies fully enough superiority of the Germans over the Roman
world, and there is no necessity for ascribing to them a moderation and
chastity that have never been the qualities of any nation as a whole.

A result of gentile law is the obligation to inherit the enmities as
well as the friendships of one's father and relatives; so is furthermore
the displacement of blood revenge by the Wergeld, a fine to be paid in
atonement of manslaughter and injuries. A generation ago this Wergeld
was considered a specifically German institution, but it has since been
found that hundreds of nations introduced this mitigation of gentile
blood revenge. Like the obligatory hospitality, it is found, for
instance, among the American Indians. Tacitus' description of the manner
in which hospitality was observed (Germania, chapt. 21) is almost
identical with Morgan's.

The hot and ceaseless controversy as to whether or not the Germans had
already made a definite repartition of the cultivated land at Tacitus'
time, and how the passages relating to this question should be
interpreted, is now a thing of the past. After the following facts had
been established: that the cultivated land of nearly all nations was
tilled collectively by the gens and later on by communistic family
groups, a practice which Cesar still found among the Suebi; that as a
result of this practice the land was re-apportioned periodically; and
that this periodical repartition of the cultivated land was preserved in
Germany down to our days--after such evidence we need not waste any more
breath on the subject. A transition within 150 years from collective
cultivation, such as Cesar expressly attributes to the Suebi, to
individual cultivation with annual repartition of the soil, such as
Tacitus found among the Germans, is surely progress enough for any one.
The further transition from this stage to complete private ownership of
land during such a short period and without any external intervention
would involve an absolute impossibility. Hence I can only read in
Tacitus what he states in so many words: They change (or re-divide) the
cultivated land every year, and enough land is left for common use. It
is the stage of agriculture and appropriation of the soil which exactly
tallies with the contemporaneous gentile constitution of the Germans.

I leave the preceding paragraph unchanged, just as it stood in former
editions. Meantime the question has assumed another aspect. Since
Kovalevsky has demonstrated that the patriarchal household community
existed nearly everywhere, perhaps even everywhere, as the connecting
link between the matriarchal communistic and the modern isolated family,
the question is no longer "Collective property or private property?" as
discussed between Maurer and Waitz, but "What was the form of that
collective property?" Not alone is there no doubt whatever, that the
Suebi were the collective owners of their land at Cesar's time, but also
that they tilled the soil collectively. The questions, whether their
economic unit was the gens, or the household, or an intermediate
communistic group, or whether all three of these groups existed at the
same time as a result of different local conditions, may remain
undecided for a long while yet. Kovalevsky maintains that the conditions
described by Tacitus were not founded on the mark or village community,
but on the household community, which developed much later into the
village community by the growth of the population.

Hence the settlements of the Germans on the territory they occupied at
the time of the Romans, and on territory later taken by them from the
Romans, would not have consisted of villages, but of large co-operative
families comprising several generations, who cultivated a sufficient
piece of land and used the surrounding wild land in common with their
neighbors. If this was the case, then the passage in Tacitus regarding
the changing of the cultivated land would indeed have an agronomic
meaning, viz., that the co-operative household cultivated a different
piece of land every year, and the land cultivated during the previous
year was left untilled or entirely abandoned. The scarcity of the
population would have left enough spare wild lands to make all dispute
about land unnecessary. Only after the lapse of centuries, when the
members of the family had increased so that the collective cultivation
became incompatible with the prevailing conditions of production, the
household communities were dissolved. The former common fields and
meadows were then divided in the well-known manner among the various
individual families that had now formed. The division of farm lands was
first periodical, but later final, while forest, pasture and
watercourses remained common property.

It seems that this process of development has been fully established for
Russia by historical investigation. As for Germany and, in the second
place, for other German countries, it cannot be denied that this view
affords in many instances a better interpretation of historical
authorities and a readier solution of difficulties than the idea of
tracing the village community to the time of Tacitus. The oldest
documents, e. g. of the Codex Laureshamensis, are easier explained by
the help of the household than of the village community. On the other
hand, new difficulties now arise and new questions pose themselves. It
will require further investigations to arrive at definite conclusions.
However, I cannot deny that the probability is very much in favor of the
intermediate stage of the household community.[29]

While the Germans of Cesar's time had either just taken up settled
abodes, or were still looking for them, they had been settled for a full
century at the time of Tacitus. As a result there is a manifest progress
in the production of necessities. The Germans lived in block houses;
their clothing was still as primitive as their forests, consisting of
rough woolen cloaks, animal skins and linen underclothing for the women
and the wealthy. They lived on milk, meat, wild fruit and, as Pliny
adds, oatmeal porridge which is the Celtic national dish in Ireland and
Scotland to-day. Their wealth consisted in cattle of an inferior race.
The kine were small, of unattractive appearance and without horns; the
horses, little ponies, were not fast runners. Money, Roman coin only,
was rarely used. They did not make ornaments of gold and silver, nor did
they value these metals. Iron was scarce and, at least among the tribes
on the Rhine and the Danube, was apparently only imported, not mined by
themselves. The Runen script (imitations of Greek and Latin letters) was
only used as a cipher and exclusively for religious sorcery. Human
sacrifices were still in vogue. In short, they were a nation just
emerged out of the middle stage of barbarism into the upper stage. But
while the tribes whose immediate contact with the Romans facilitated the
import of Roman products, were thereby prevented from acquiring a metal
and textile industry of their own, there is not the least doubt that the
tribes of the Northeast, on the Baltic, developed these industries. The
pieces of armor found in the bogs of Sleswick--a long iron sword, a coat
of mail, a silver helmet, etc., together with Roman coins from the close
of the second century--, and the German metal ware spread by the
migrations represent a peculiar type of a superior finish, even such as
were modeled after Roman originals. With the exception of England, the
emigration into the civilized Roman empire everywhere put an end to this
home industry. How simultaneously this industry arose and developed, is
shown e. g. by the bronze spangles. The specimens found in Burgundy, in
Roumania and on the Sea of Asow, might have been manufactured in the
same shop with those found in England or Sweden and are of undoubted
German origin.

The German constitution was also in keeping with the upper stage of
barbarism. According to Tacitus, the council of chiefs (principes)
universally decided matters of minor importance and prepared important
matters for the decision of the public meetings. So far as we know
anything of the public meeting in the lower stage of barbarism, viz.,
among the American Indians, it was only held by gentes, not by tribes or
leagues of tribes. The chiefs of peace (principes) were still sharply
distinguished from the chiefs of war (duces), just as among the
Iroquois. The peace chiefs were already living in part on honorary
donations of the gentiles, such as cattle, grain, etc. They were
generally elected from the same family, analogous to America. The
transition to paternal law favored, as in Greece and Rome, the gradual
transformation of office by election into hereditary office. A "noble"
family was thus gradually raised in each gens. Most of this hereditary
nobility came to grief during the migrations or shortly after. The
military leaders were elected solely on their merits. They had little
power and were obliged to rely on the force of their example. The actual
disciplinary power in the army was held by the priests, as Tacitus
implicitly states. The public meeting was the real executive. The king
or chief of the tribe presided. The people decided. A murmur signified
"No," acclamation and clanging of weapons meant "Yes." The public
meeting was at the same time a court of justice. Complaints were here
brought forth and decided, and death sentences pronounced. Only
cowardice, treason and unnatural lust were capital crimes. The gentes
and other subdivisions decided in a body under the chairmanship of the
chief, who in all original German courts was only the manager of the
transactions and questioner. Among Germans, the sentence has ever and
everywhere been pronounced by the community.

Leagues of tribes came into existence since Cesar's time. Some of them
already had kings. The first chief of war began to covet the usurper's
place, as among Greeks and Romans, and sometimes succeeded in obtaining
it. Such successful usurpers were by no means absolute rulers. But still
they began to break through the bonds of the gens. While freed slaves
generally occupied an inferior position, because they could not be
members of any gens, they often gained rank, wealth and honors as
favorites of the new kings. The same thing took place after the conquest
of the Roman empire by those military leaders who had now become kings
of great countries. Among the Frankons, slaves and freed slaves of the
king played a leading role first at the court, then in the state. A
large part of the new nobility were descended from them.

There was one institution that especially favored the rise of royalty:
the military following. We have already seen, how among the American
redskins private war groups were formed independently of the gens. Among
the Germans, these private groups had developed into standing bodies.
The military leader who had acquired fame, gathered around his person a
host of booty loving young warriors. They were pledged to personal
faithfulness by their leader who in return pledged himself to them. He
fed them, gave them presents and organized them on hierarchic
principles: a body guard and a troop for immediate emergencies and short
expeditions, a trained corps of officers for larger enterprises. These
followings must have been rather insignificant, in fact we find them so
later under Odoaker in Italy, still they portended the decay of the old
gentile liberty, and the events during and after the migrations proved
that military retainers were heralds of evil. For in the first place,
they fostered the growth of royalty. In the second place, Tacitus
affirms that they could only be held together by continual warfare and
plundering expeditions. Robbery became their life purpose. If the leader
found nothing to do in his neighborhood, he marched his troops to other
countries, where a prospect of war and booty allured him. The German
auxiliaries, many of whom fought under the Roman standard even against
Germans, had been largely recruited among such followings. They
represent the first germs of the "Landsknecht" profession, the shame and
curse of the Germans. After the conquest of the Roman empire, these
retainers of kings together with the unfree Roman courtiers formed the
other half of the nobility of later days.

In general, then, the German tribes combined into nations had the same
constitution that had developed among the Greeks of the heroic era and
the Romans at the time of the so-called kings: public meetings, councils
of gentile chiefs and military leaders who coveted actual royal power.
It was the highest constitution which the gentile order could produce;
it was the standard constitution of the higher stage of barbarism. If
society passed the limits for which this constitution sufficed, then the
end of the gentile order had come. It collapsed and the state took its


[27] Author's note to the fourth edition.

During a few days passed in Ireland, I once more became conscious to
what extent the rural population is still living in the conceptions of
the gentile period. The great landholder, whose tenant the farmer is,
still enjoys a position similar to that of a clan chief, who has to
supervise the cultivation of the soil in the interest of all, who is
entitled to a tribute from the farmer in the form of rent, but who also
has to assist the farmer in cases of need. Likewise everyone in
comfortable circumstances is considered under obligation to help his
poorer neighbors whenever they are in need. Such assistance is not
charity, it is simply the prerogative of the poor gentile, which the
rich gentile or the chief of the clan must respect. This explains why
the professors of political economy and the jurists complain of the
impossibility of imparting the idea of the modern private property to
the Irish farmers. Property that has only rights, but no duties, is
absolutely beyond the ken of the Irishman. No wonder that so many
Irishmen who are suddenly cast into one of the modern great cities of
England and America, among a population with entirely different moral
and legal standards, despair of all morals and justice, lose all hold
and become an easy prey to demoralization.

[28] Author's note.

The Greeks know this special sacredness of the bond between the mother's
brother and his nephew, a relic of maternal law found among many
nations, only in the mythology of heroic times. According to Diodorus
IV., 34, Meleagros kills the sons of Thestius, the brother of his mother
Althaia. The latter regards this deed as such a heinous crime that she
curses the murderer, her own son, and prays for his death. "It is said
that the gods fulfilled her wish and ended the life of Meleagros."
According to the same Diordorus, IV., 44, the Argonauts under Herakles
land in Thracia and there find that Phineus, at the instigation of his
second wife, shamefully maltreats his two sons, the offspring of his
first deserted wife, the Boread Kleopatra. But among the Argonauts there
are also some Boreads, the brothers of Kleopatra, the uncles of the
maltreated boys. They at once champion their nephews, set them free and
kill their guards.

[29] Translator's note.

The household community is still a distinct stage of production in
Georgia (South Russia). The northern boundary of Georgia is the
Caucasus. The Georgians, a people of high intelligence, have for
centuries maintained their independence against Persians, Arabs, Turcs
and Tartars. Dr. Philipp Gogitshayshvili gives the following interesting
description of their condition in an article, entitled "Das Gewerbe in
Georgien" (Zeitschrift für die gesammte Staatswissenschaft,
Ergänzungsheft I., Tübingen, 1901). "The Swanians (a district of Georgia
is called Swania) have all the necessities of life. They weave their own
clothing, make their own weapons, powder and even silver, and gold
ornaments. There is no modern trading.... They are acquainted with
exchange, but only of products for products. Money does not circulate
and there are neither shops nor markets.... There is not a single
beggar, not a single man who asks for charity. With the exception of
iron, salt and chintz, the Swanians produce all they need themselves.
They prepare their linen from hemp, their clothing from skins of wild
animals and wool, their footwear from hides and leather. They make
feltcaps, household goods, weapons, saddles, bridles and agricultural



According to Tacitus the German nation was very strong in numbers. An
approximate idea of the strength of individual German nations is given
by Caesar. He states that the number of Usipetans and Tencterans who
crossed over to the left bank of the Rhine amounted to 180,000,
including women and children. About 100,000[30] members to a single
nation is considerably more than e. g. the Iroquois numbered in their
prime, when 20,000 of them became the terror of the whole country, from
the Great Lakes to the Ohio and Potomac. If we attempt to place the
better known nations of the Rhine country by the help of historical
reports, we find that a single nation occupies on the map the average
area of a Prussian government district, about 10,000 square
kilometers[31] or 182 German geographical square miles.[32] The Germania
Magna of the Romans, reaching to the Vistula, comprised about 500,000
square kilometers. Counting an average of 100,000 for any single
nation, the total population of Germania Magna would have amounted to
five millions. This is a rather high figure for a barbarian group of
nations, although 10 inhabitants to the square kilometer or 550 to the
geographical square mile is very little when compared to present
conditions. But this does not include the whole number of Germans then
living. We know that German nations of the Gothic race, Bastarnians,
Peukinians and others, lived all along the Carpathian mountains away
down to the mouth of the Danube. They were so numerous that Pliny
designated them as the fifth main division of the Germans. As much as
180 years B. C. they were mercenaries of the Macedonian King Perseus,
and during the first years of Augustus they were still pushing their way
as far as the vicinity of Adrianople. Assuming them to have been one
million strong we find that at least six millions was the probable
population of Germany at the beginning of the Christian era.

After the final settlement in Germany, the population must have grown
with increasing rapidity. The industrial progress mentioned above would
be sufficient to prove it. The objects found in the bogs of Sleswick, to
judge by the Roman coins found with them, are from the third century.
Hence at that time the metal and textile industry was already well
developed on the Baltic, a lively traffic with the Roman empire was
carried on, and the wealthier class enjoyed a certain luxury--all of
which indicates that the population had increased. But at the same time
the general war of aggression against the Romans commenced along the
whole line of the Rhine, of the Roman wall and of the Danube, a line
stretching from the North Sea to the Black Sea. This is another proof of
the ever growing outward pressure of the population. During the struggle
which lasted three centuries, the whole main body of the Gothic
nations, with the exception of the Scandinavian Goths and the
Burgundians, marched to the Southeast and formed the left wing of the
long line of attack. The High Germans (Herminonians) on the Upper Danube
fought in the center, and the Iskaevonians on the Rhine, now called
Franks, advanced on the right wing. The conquest of Brittany fell to the
lot of the Ingaevonians.[33] At the end of the fifth century, the
exhausted, bloodless, and helpless Roman empire lay open to the Germans.

In former chapters we stood at the cradle of antique Greek and Roman
civilization. Now we are standing at its grave. The equalizing plane of
Roman world power had been gliding for centuries over all the
Mediterranean countries. Where the Greek language did not offer any
resistance, all national idioms had been crushed by a corrupted Latin.
There were no longer any distinctions of nationality, no more Gauls,
Iberians, Ligurians, Noricans; they had all become Romans. Roman
administration and Roman law had everywhere dissolved the old gentile
bodies and thus crushed the last remnant of local and national
independence. The new type of Romans offered no compensation for this
loss, for it did not express any nationality, but only the lack of a
nationality. The elements for the formation of new nations were present
everywhere. The Latin dialects of the different provinces differentiated
more and more. But the natural boundaries that had once made Italy,
Gaul, Spain, Africa independent territories, were still present and made
themselves felt. Yet there was no strength anywhere for combining these
elements into new nations. Nowhere was there the least trace of any
capacity for development, nor any power of resistance, much less any
creative power. The immense human throng of that enormous territory was
held together by one bond alone: the Roman state. But this state had in
time become the worst enemy and oppressor of its subjects. The provinces
had ruined Rome. It had become a provincial town like all others,
privileged, but no longer ruling, no longer the center of the world
empire, no longer even the seat of the emperors and subregents who lived
in Constantinople, Treves and Milan. The Roman state had become an
immense complicated machine, designed exclusively for the exploitation
of its subjects. Taxes, state imposts and tithes of all sorts drove the
mass of the people deeper and deeper into poverty. By the blackmailing
practices of the regents, tax collectors and soldiers, the pressure was
increased to such a point that it became insupportable. This was the
outcome of Rome's world power. The right of the state to existence was
founded on the preservation of order in the interior and the protection
against the barbarians outside. But this order was worse than the most
disgusting disorder, and the barbarians against whom the state pretended
to protect its citizens, were hailed by them as saviors.

The condition of society was no less desperate. During the last years of
the republic, the Roman rulers had already contrived the pitiless
exploitation of the conquered provinces. The emperors had not abolished,
but organized this exploitation. The more the empire fell to pieces, the
higher rose the taxes and tithes, and the more shamelessly did the
officials rob and blackmail. Commerce and industry had never been a
strong point of the domineering Romans. Only in usury they had excelled
all other nations before and after them. What commerce had managed to
exist, had been ruined by official extortion. Only in the East, in the
Grecian part of the empire, some commerce still vegetated, but this is
outside of the scope of our study. Universal reduction to poverty,
decrease of traffic, of handicrafts, of art, of population, decay of the
towns, return of agriculture to a lower stage--that had been the final
result of Roman world supremacy.

But now agriculture, the most prominent branch of production in the
whole Old World, was again supreme, and more than ever. In Italy, the
immense estates (latifundiae) that comprised nearly the whole country
since the end of the republic, had been utilized in two ways: either as
pastures on which the population had been replaced by sheep and oxen,
the care of which required only a few slaves; or as country seats, on
which masses of slaves carried on horticulture on a large scale, partly
for the luxury of the owner, partly for sale on the markets of the
towns. The great pastures had been preserved and even extended in
certain parts. But the country seats and their horticulture had gone to
ruin through the impoverishment of their owners and the decay of the
towns. Latifundian economy based on slave labor was no longer
profitable; but in its time it had been the only possible form of
agriculture on a large scale. Now, however, small production had again
become the only lucrative form. One country seat after the other was
parceled and leased in small lots to hereditary tenants who paid a fixed
rent, or to partiarii, more administrators than tenants who received
one-sixth or even only one-ninth of a year's product in remuneration for
their work. But these little lots were principally disposed of to
colonists who paid a fixed sum annually and could be transferred by sale
together with their lots. Although no slaves, still these colonists
were not free; they could not marry free citizens, and marriages with
members of their own class were not regarded as valid, but as mere
concubinages like those of the slaves. The colonists were the prototypes
of the medieval serfs.

The ancient slavery had lost its vitality. Neither in the country in
large scale agriculture, nor in the manufactories of the towns did it
yield any more returns--the market for its products had disappeared. And
small scale production and artisanship, to which the gigantic production
of the flourishing time of the empire was now reduced, did not leave any
room for numerous slaves. Only house and luxury slaves of the rich were
still retained by society. But this declining slavery was as yet
sufficiently strong to brand productive labor as slave work, as below
the dignity of free Romans; and everybody was now a free Roman. An
increasing number of superfluous slaves who had become a drug on their
owners were dismissed, while on the other hand the number of colonists
and of beggared free men (similar to the poor whites in the slave states
of America) grew continuously. Christianity is perfectly innocent of
this gradual decline of ancient slavery. For it had taken part in the
slavery of the Roman empire for centuries. It never prevented the slave
trade of Christians later on, neither of the Germans in the North, nor
of the Venetians on the Mediterranean, nor the negro traffic of later
years.[34] Slavery died, because it did not pay any longer. But it left
behind its poisonous sting by branding as ignoble the productive labor
of free men. This brought the Roman world into a closed alley from
which it could not escape. Slave labor was economically impossible and
the labor of free men was under a moral ban. The one could exist no
longer, the other could not yet be the fundamental form of social
production. There was no other help but a complete revolution.

The provinces were not any better off. The most complete reports on this
subject are from Gaul. By the side of the colonists, free farmers still
existed there. In order to protect themselves against the brutal
blackmail of the officials, judges and usurers, they frequently placed
themselves under the protectorate of a man of influence and power. Not
only single individuals did so, but whole communities, so that the
emperors of the fourth century often issued decrees prohibiting this
practice. But what good did protection do to the clients? The patron
imposed the condition that they should transfer the title of their lots
to him, and in return he assured them of the free enjoyment of their
land for life--a trick which the holy church remembered and freely
imitated during the ninth and tenth century, for the greater glory of
God. In the fifth century, however, about the year 475, Bishop Salvianus
of Marseilles still vehemently denounced such robbery and relates that
the methods of the Roman officials and great landlords became so
oppressive that many "Romans" fled to the districts occupied by the
barbarians and feared nothing so much as a return under Roman rule. That
poor parents frequently sold their children into slavery, is proved by a
law forbidding this practice.

In return for liberating the Romans from their own state, the barbarians
appropriated two-thirds of the entire land and divided it among
themselves. The distribution was made by gentile rules. As the number of
the conquerors was relatively small, large tracts remained undivided in
the possession of the nation, the tribe or the gens. Every gens
distributed the land for cultivation and pastures to the individual
households by drawing lots. We do not know whether repeated divisions
took place at that time. At any rate, this practice was soon discarded
in the Roman provinces, and the individual lot became salable private
property, a so-called freehold (allodium). Forests and pastures remained
undivided for collective use. This use and the mode of cultivating the
divided land was regulated by tradition and the will of the community.
The longer the gens lived in its village, and the better Germans and
Romans became amalgamated in the course of time, the more did the
character of kinship lose ground before territorial bounds. The gens
disappeared in the mark commune, the members of which, however, still
exhibited traces of kinship. In the countries where mark communes were
still preserved--in the North of France, in England, Germany and
Scandinavia--the gentile constitution gradually merged into a local
constitution and thus acquired the capacity of being fitted into a
state. Nevertheless this local constitution retained some of the
primeval democratic character which distinguishes the whole gentile
order, and thus preserved a piece of gentilism even in its enforced
degeneration of later times. This left a weapon in the hands of the
oppressed, ready to be wielded by them even in the present time.

The rapid loss of the bonds of blood in the gens as a result of conquest
caused the degeneration of the tribal and national organs of gentilism.
We know that the rule over subjugated people does not agree with the
gentile constitution. Here we have an opportunity to observe this on a
large scale. The German nations, masters of the Roman provinces, had to
organize their conquests. But they could neither adopt the Romans as a
body into their gentes, nor rule them by the help of gentile organs. A
substitute for them had to be placed at the head of the Roman
administrative bodies that were largely retained in local affairs, and
this substitute could only be another state. Hence the organs of the
gentile constitution had to become organs of the state, and under the
pressure of the moment this took place very rapidly. Now the first
representative of the conquering nation was the military leader. The
internal and external security of the conquered territory demanded that
his power should be strengthened. The moment had arrived for the
transition from war leadership to monarchy. And the change took place.

Take e. g. the realm of the Franks. The victorious Salians had not only
come into possession of the extensive Roman state dominions, but also of
all the large tracts that had not been assigned to the more or less
small mark communities, especially of all large forest tracts. The first
thing which the king of the Franks, now a real monarch, did was to
change this national property into royal property, to steal it from the
people and to donate or give it in lien to his retainers. This retinue,
originally composed of his personal war followers and of the
subcommanders of the army, was increased by Romans, i. e., romanized
Gauls who quickly became invaluable to the king through their knowledge
of writing, their education and their familiarity with the language and
laws of the country, and with the language of Latin literature. But
slaves, serfs and freed slaves also became his courtiers. From among all
these he chose his favorites. At first they received donations of public
land, and later on these benefits were generally conferred for the
lifetime of the king. The foundation of a new nobility was thus laid at
the expense of the people.

But this was not all. The wide expanse of the empire could not be
governed by means of the old gentile constitution. The council of
chiefs, if it had not become obsolete long ago, could not have held any
more meetings. It was soon displaced by the standing retinue of the
king. A pretense at the old public meeting was still kept up, but it
also was more and more limited to the meeting of the subcommanders of
the army and the rising nobles.

Just as formerly, the Roman farmers during the last period of the
republic, so now the free land-owning peasants, the mass of the Frank
people, were exhausted and reduced to penury by continual civil feuds
and wars of conquest. They who once had formed the whole army and, after
the conquest of France, its picked body, were so impoverished at the end
of the ninth century that hardly more than every fifth man could go to
war. The former army of free peasants, convoked directly by the king,
was replaced by an army composed of dependents of the new nobles. Among
these servants were also villeins, the descendants of the peasants who
had acknowledged no master but the king and a little earlier not even a
king. Under Charlemagne's successors the ruin of the Frank peasantry was
aggravated by internal wars, weakness of the royal power and
corresponding overbearance of the nobles. The latter had received
another addition to their ranks through the installation by Charlemagne
of "Gau"[35] (district) counts who strove to make their offices
hereditary. The invasions of the Normans completed the wreck of the
peasantry. Fifty years after the death of Charlemagne, France lay as
resistless at the feet of the Normans, as four hundred years previous
the Roman empire had lain at the feet of the Franks.

Not only was the external impotence almost the same, but also the
internal order or rather disorder of society. The free Frank peasants
found themselves in a similar position as their predecessors, the Roman
colonists. Ruined by wars and robberies, they had been forced to seek
the protection of the nobles or the church, because the royal power was
too weak to shield them. But they had to pay dearly for this protection.
Like the Gallic farmers, they had to transfer the titles of their land
to their patrons, and received it back from them as tenants in different
and varying forms, but always only in consideration of services and
tithes. Once driven into this form of dependence, they gradually lost
their individual liberty. After a few generations most of them became
serfs. How rapidly the free peasants sank from their level is shown by
the land records of the abbey Saint Germain des Prés, then near, now in,
Paris. On the vast holdings of this abbey in the surrounding country
2788 households, nearly all of them Franks with German names, were
living at Charlemagne's time; 2080 of them were colonists, 35 lites,[36]
220 slaves and only 8 freeholders. The practice of the patrons to demand
the transfer of the land titles to themselves and give the former owners
the use of the land for life, denounced as ungodly by Salvianus, was now
universally practiced by the Church in its dealings with the peasants.
The compulsory labor that now came more and more into vogue, had been
moulded as much after the Roman angariae, compulsory service for the
state, as after the services of the German mark men in bridge and road
building and other work for common purposes. By all appearances, then,
the mass of the population had arrived at the same old goal after four
hundred years.

That proved two things: Firstly, that the social differentiation and the
division of property in the sinking Roman empire corresponded perfectly
to the contemporaneous stage of production in agriculture and industry,
and hence was unavoidable; secondly, that this stage of production had
not been essentially altered for better or worse during four hundred
years, and therefore had necessarily produced the same division of
property and the same classes of population. The town had lost its
supremacy over the country during the last centuries of the Roman
empire, and had not regained it during the first centuries of German
rule. This presupposes a low stage of agriculture and industry. Such a
general condition produces of necessity the domination of great
proprietors and the dependence of small farmers. How impossible it was
to graft either the slave labor of Roman latifundian economy or the
compulsory labor of the new large scale production into such a society,
is proved by Charlemagne's very extensive experiments with his famous
imperial country residences that left hardly a trace. These experiments
were continued only by the convents and brought results only for them.
But the convents were abnormal social institutions, founded on celibacy.
They could do exceptional work, but they had to remain exceptions
themselves for this very reason.

Yet some progress had been made during these four hundred years.
Although in the end we find the same main classes as in the beginning,
still the human beings that made up these classes had changed. The
ancient slavery had disappeared; gone were also the beggared freemen who
had despised work as slavish. Between the Roman colonist and the new
serf, there had been the free Frank peasant. The "useless remembrance
and the vain feud" of the decaying Roman nation was dead and gone. The
social classes of the ninth century had been formed during the travail
of a new civilization, not in the demoralization of a sinking one. The
new race, masters and servants, were a race of men as compared to their
Roman predecessors. The relation of powerful landlords to serving
peasants, which had been the unavoidable result of collapse in the
antique world, was for the Franks the point of departure on a new line
of development. Moreover, unproductive as these four hundred years may
appear, they left behind one great product: the modern nationalities,
the reorganization and differentiation of West European humanity for the
coming history. The Germans had indeed infused a new life into Europe.
Therefore the dissolution of the states in the German period did not end
in a subjugation after the Norse-Saracene plan, but in a continued
development of the estate of the royal beneficiaries and an increasing
submission (commendatio) to feudalism, and in such a tremendous increase
of the population, that no more than two centuries later the bloody
drain of the crusades could be sustained without injury.

What was the mysterious charm by which the Germans infused a new life
into decrepit Europe? Was it an innate magic power of the German race,
as our jingo historians would have it? By no means. Of course, the
Germans were a highly gifted Aryan branch and, especially at that time,
in full process of vigorous development. They did not, however,
rejuvenate Europe by their specific national properties, but simply by
their barbarism, their gentile constitution.

Their personal efficiency and bravery, their love of liberty, and their
democratic instinct which regarded all public affairs as its own
affairs, in short all those properties which the Romans had lost and
which were alone capable of forming new states and raising new
nationalities out of the muck of the Roman world--what were they but
characteristic marks of the barbarians in the upper stage, fruits of the
gentile constitution?

If they transformed the antique form of monogamy, mitigated the male
rule in the family and gave a higher position to women than the classic
world had ever known, what enabled them to do so, unless it was their
barbarism, their gentile customs, their living inheritance of the time
of maternal law?

If they could safely transmit a trace of the genuine gentile order, the
mark communes, to the feudal states of at least three of the most
important countries--Germany, North of France, and England--and thus
give a local coherence and the means of resistance to the oppressed
class, the peasants, even under the hardest medieval serfdom; means
which neither the slaves of antiquity nor the modern proletarian found
ready at hand--to whom did they owe this, unless it was again their
barbarism, their exclusively barbarian mode of settling in gentes?

And in conclusion, if they could develop and universally introduce the
mild form of servitude which they had been practicing at home, and which
more and more displaced slavery also in the Roman empire--to whom was it
due, unless it was again their barbarism, thanks to which they had not
yet arrived at complete slavery, neither in the form of the ancient
labor slaves, nor in that of the oriental house slaves?

This milder form of servitude, as Fourier first stated, gave to the
oppressed the means of their gradual emancipation as a class (fournit
aux cultivateurs des moyens d'affranchissement collectif et progressif)
and is therefore far superior to slavery, which permits only the
immediate enfranchisement of the individual without any transitory
stage. Antiquity did not know any abolition of slavery by rebellion, but
the serfs of the middle ages gradually enforced their liberation as a

Every vital and productive germ with which the Germans inoculated the
Roman world, was due to barbarism. Indeed, only barbarians are capable
of rejuvenating a world laboring under the death throes of unnerved
civilization. And the higher stage of barbarism, to which and in which
the Germans worked their way up previous to the migrations, was best
calculated to prepare them for this work. That explains everything.


[30] Author's note.

The number assumed here is confirmed by a passage of Diodorus on the
Celts of Gaul: "Many nations of unequal strength are living in Gaul. The
strongest of them numbers about 200,000, the weakest 50,000." (Diodorus
Siculus, V., 25.) That gives an average of 125,000. The individual
nations of Gaul, being more highly developed, should be gauged more
numerous than those of Germany.

[31] Translator's note.

3861 square statute miles.

[32] A German geographical mile contains 7,420.44 meters, or 7.42044
kilometers; hence a German geographical square mile contains 55.0629
square kilometers, equal to 21.2598 square statute miles.

[33] Translator's note.

The Ingaevonians comprised the Friesians, the Saxons, the Jutes and the
Angles, living on the coast of the North Sea from the Zuider Zee to

[34] Author's note.

According to Bishop Liutprand of Cremona, the main industry of Verdun in
the tenth century, in the so-called Holy German Empire, was the
manufacture of eunuchs, who were exported with great profit to Spain for
the harems of the Moors.

[35] Translator's note.

The "Gau" is a larger territory than the "Mark." Caesar and Tacitus
called it pagus.

[36] Translator's note.

The name given in ancient law to dependent farmers.



Having observed the dissolution of the gentile order in the three
concrete cases of the Greek, Roman, and German nations, we may now
investigate in conclusion the general economic conditions that began by
undermining the gentile organization of society during the upper stage
of barbarism and ended by doing away with it entirely at the advent of
civilization. Marx's "Capital" will be as necessary for the successful
completion of this task as Morgan's "Ancient Society."

A growth of the middle stage and a product of further development during
the upper stage of savagery, the gens reached its prime, as near as we
can judge from our sources of information, in the lower stage of
barbarism. With this stage, then, we begin our investigation.

In our standard example, the American redskins of that time, we find the
gentile constitution fully developed. A tribe had differentiated into
several gentes, generally two. Through the increase of the population,
these original gentes again divided into several daughter gentes, making
the mother gens a phratry. The tribe itself split up into several
tribes, in each of which we again meet a large number of representatives
of the old gentes. In certain cases a federation united the related
tribes. This simple organization fully sufficed for the social
conditions out of which it had grown. It was nothing else than the
innate, spontaneous expression of those conditions, and it was well
calculated to smooth over all internal difficulties that could arise in
this social organization. External difficulties were settled by war.
Such a war could end in the annihilation of a tribe, but never in its
subjugation. It is the grandeur and at the same time the limitation of
the gentile order that it has no room either for masters or servants.
There were as yet no distinctions between rights and duties. The
question whether he had a right to take part in public affairs, to
practice blood revenge or to demand atonement for injuries would have
appeared as absurd to an Indian, as the question whether it was his duty
to eat, sleep, and hunt. Nor could any division of a tribe or gens into
different classes take place. This leads us to the investigation of the
economic basis of those conditions.

The population was very small in numbers. It was collected only on the
territory of the tribe. Next to this territory was the hunting ground
surrounding it in a wide circle. A neutral forest formed the line of
demarcation from other tribes. The division of labor was quite
primitive. The work was simply divided between the two sexes. The men
went to war, hunted, fished, provided the raw material for food and the
tools necessary for these pursuits. The women cared for the house, and
prepared food and clothing; they cooked, weaved and sewed. Each sex was
master of its own field of activity; the men in the forest, the women in
the house. Each sex also owned the tools made and used by it; the men
were the owners of the weapons, of the hunting and fishing tackle, the
women of the household goods and utensils. The household was
communistic, comprising several, and often many, families.[37] Whatever
was produced and used collectively, was regarded as common property: the
house, the garden, the long boat. Here, and only here, then, do we find
the "self-earned property" which jurists and economists have falsely
attributed to civilized society, the last deceptive pretext of legality
on which modern capitalist property is leaning.

But humanity did not everywhere remain in this stage. In Asia they found
animals that could be tamed and propagated in captivity. The wild
buffalo cow had to be hunted down; the tame cow gave birth to a calf
once a year, and also furnished milk. Some of the most advanced
tribes--Aryans, Semites, perhaps also Turanians--devoted themselves
mainly to taming, and later to raising and tending, domestic animals.
The segregation of cattle raising tribes from the rest of the barbarians
constitutes the first great division of social labor. These stock
raising tribes did not only produce more articles of food than the rest
of the barbarians, but also different kinds of products. They were ahead
of the others by having at their disposal not alone milk, milk products,
and a greater abundance of meat, but also skins, wool, goat's hair, and
the spun and woven goods which the growing abundance of the raw material
brought into common use. This for the first time made a regular exchange
of products possible. In former stages, exchange could only take place
occasionally, and an exceptional ability in manufacturing weapons and
tools may have led to a transient division of labor. For example,
unquestionable remains of workshops for stone implements of the
neolithic period have been found in many places. The artists who
developed their ability in those shops, most probably worked for the
collectivity, as did the artisans of the Indian gentile order. At any
rate, no other exchange than that within the tribe could exist in that
stage, and even that was an exception. But after the segregation of the
stock raising tribes we find all the conditions favorable to an exchange
between groups of different tribes, and to a further development of this
mode of trading into a fixed institution. Originally, tribe exchanged
with tribe through the agency of their tribal heads. But when the herds
drifted into the hands of private individuals, then the exchange between
individuals prevailed more and more, until it became the established
form. The principal article of exchange which the stock raising tribes
offered to their neighbors was in the form of domestic animals. Cattle
became the favorite commodity by which all other commodities were
measured in exchange. In short, cattle assumed the functions of money
and served in this capacity as early as that stage. With such necessity
and rapidity was the demand for a money commodity developed at the very
beginning of the exchange of commodities.

Horticulture, probably unknown to the Asiatic barbarians of the lower
stage, arose not later than the middle stage of barbarism, as the
forerunner of agriculture. The climate of the Turanian Highland does not
admit of a nomadic life without a supply of stock feed for the long and
hard winter. Hence the cultivation of meadows and grain was
indispensable. The same is true of the steppes north of the Black Sea.
Once grain had been grown for cattle, it soon became human food. The
cultivated land belonged as yet to the tribe and was assigned first to
the gens, which in its turn distributed it to the households, and
finally to individuals; always for use only, not for possession. The
users may have had certain claims to the land, but that was all.

Two of the industrial acquisitions of this stage are especially
important. The first is the weaving loom, the second the melting of
metal ore and the use of metals in manufacture. Copper, tin, and their
alloy, bronze, were the most essential of them. Bronze furnished tools
and weapons, but could not displace stone implements. Only iron could
have done that, but the production of iron was as yet unknown. Gold and
silver were already used for ornament and decoration, and must have been
far more precious than copper and bronze.

The increase of production in all branches--stock raising, agriculture,
domestic handicrafts--enabled human labor power to produce more than was
necessary for its maintenance. It increased at the same time the amount
of daily work that fell to the lot of every member of a gens, a
household, or a single family. The addition of more labor power became
desirable. It was furnished by war; the captured enemies were
transformed into slaves. Under the given historical conditions, the
first great division of social labor, by increasing the productivity of
labor, adding to the wealth, and enlarging the field of productive
activity, necessarily carried slavery in its wake. Out of the first
great division of social labor arose the first great division of society
into two classes: masters and servants, exploiters and exploited.

How and when the herds were transferred from the collective ownership of
the tribe or gens to the proprietorship of the heads of the families, is
not known to us. But it must have been practically accomplished in this
stage. The herds and the other new objects of wealth brought about a
revolution in the family. Procuring the means of existence had always
been the man's business. The tools of production were manufactured and
owned by him. The herds were the new tools of production, and their
taming and tending was his work. Hence he owned the cattle and the
commodities and slaves obtained in exchange for them. All the surplus
now resulting from production fell to the share of the man. The woman
shared in its fruition, but she could not claim its ownership. The
"savage" warrior and hunter had been content to occupy the second place
in the house, to give precedence to the woman. The "gentler" shepherd,
standing on his wealth, assumed the first place and forced the woman
back into the second place. And she had no occasion to complain. The
division of labor in the family had regulated the distribution of
property between man and wife. This division of labor remained
unchanged. Yet the former domestic relation was now reversed, simply
because the division of labor outside of the family had been altered.
The same cause that once had secured the supremacy in the house for
women, viz., the confining of women's activity to domestic labor, now
assured the supremacy of the men in the households. The domestic labor
of women was considered insignificant in comparison to men's work for a
living. The latter was everything, the former a negligible quantity. At
this early stage we can already see that the emancipation of women and
their equality with men are impossible and remain so, as long as women
are excluded from social production and restricted to domestic labor.
The emancipation of women becomes feasible only then when women are
enabled to take part extensively in social production, and when domestic
duties require their attention in a minor degree. This state of things
was brought about by the modern great industries, which not only admit
of women's liberal participation in production, but actually call for it
and, besides, endeavor to transform domestic work also into a public

Man's advent to practical supremacy in the household marked the removal
of the last barrier to his universal supremacy. His unlimited rule was
emphasized and endowed with continuity by the downfall of matriarchy,
the introduction of patriarchy, and the gradual transition from the
pairing family to the monogamic family. This made a breach in the old
gentile order. The monogamic family became a power and lifted a
threatening hand against the gens.

The next step brings us to the upper stage of barbarism, that period in
which all nations of civilization go through their heroic era. It is the
time of the iron sword, but also of the iron plow share and axe. The
iron had become the servant of man. It is the last and most important of
all raw products that play a revolutionary role in history; the last--if
we except the potato.

Iron brought about agriculture on a larger scale and the clearing of
extensive forest tracts for cultivation. It gave to the craftsman a tool
of such hardness and sharpness that no stone, no other known metal,
could withstand it. All this came about gradually. The first iron was
often softer than bronze. Therefore stone implements disappeared very
slowly. Not only in the Hildebrand Song, but also at Hastings in 1066,
stone axes were still used in fighting. But progress was now
irresistible, less interrupted and more rapid. The town, inclosing
houses of stone or tiles within its turreted and crested stone walls,
became the central seat of the tribe or federation of tribes. It showed
an astounding progress of architecture, but also an increase of danger
and of the demand for protection. Wealth increased rapidly, but it was
the wealth of private individuals. Weaving, metal work and other more
and more differentiating industries developed an increasing variety and
display of art in production. Agriculture furnished not alone grain,
peas, beans and fruit, but also oil and wine, the preparation of which
had now been learned. Such a diversity of action could not be displayed
by any single individual. The second great division of labor took place:
handicrafts separated from agriculture. The growing intensity of
production and the increased productivity enhanced the value of human
labor power. Slavery, which had been a rising and sporadic factor in the
preceding stage, now became an essential part of the social system. The
slaves ceased to be simple assistants. They were now driven in scores to
the work in the fields and shops. The division of production into two
great branches, agriculture and handicrafts, gave rise to production for
exchange, the production of commodities. Trade arose at the same time,
not only in the interior and on the tribal boundaries, but also in the
form of maritime exchange. All this was as yet in a very undeveloped
state. The precious metals gained preference as a universal money
commodity, but still uncoined and exchanged merely by dead weight.

The distinction between rich and poor was added to that between free men
and slaves. This and the new division of labor constitute a new division
of society into classes. The differences in the amount of property
belonging to the several family heads broke up the old communistic
households one by one, wherever they might have been preserved thus far.
This made an end to the collective cultivation of the soil for the
account of the community. The cultivated land was assigned for use to
the several families, first for a limited time, later for once and all.
The transition to full private property was accomplished gradually and
simultaneously with the transition from the pairing family to monogamy.
The monogamous family began to be the economic unit of society.

The increase of population necessitated a closer consolidation against
internal and external foes. The federation of related tribes became
unavoidable. Their amalgamation, and thence the amalgamation of the
separate tribal territories to one national territory, was the following
step. The military leader--rex, basileus, thiudans--became an
indispensable and standing official. The public meeting was introduced
wherever it did not yet exist. The military leader, the council of
chiefs, and the public meeting formed the organs of the military
democracy that had grown out of the gentile constitution. Military
democracy--for now war and organization for war were regular functions
of social life. The wealth of the neighbors excited the greed of nations
that began to regard the acquisition of wealth as one of the main
purposes of their life. They were barbarians: robbing appeared to them
easier and more honorable than producing. War, once simply a revenge for
transgressions or a means for enlarging a territory that had become too
narrow, was now waged for the sake of plunder alone and became a regular
profession. Not in vain did threatening walls cast a rigid stare all
around the new fortified towns: their yawning ditches were the tomb of
the gentile constitution, and their turrets already reached up into
civilization. The internal affairs underwent a similar change. The
plundering wars increased the power of the military leader and of the
subcommanders. The habitual election of the successors from the same
family was gradually transformed into hereditary succession, first by
sufferance, then by claim, and finally by usurpation. Thus the
foundation of hereditary royalty and nobility was laid. In this manner
the organs of the gentile constitution were gradually torn away from
their roots in the nation, tribe, phratry and gens, and the whole
gentile order reversed into its antithesis. The organization of tribes
for the purpose of the free administration of affairs was turned into an
organization for plundering and oppressing their neighbors. The organs
of gentilism changed from servants of the public will to independent
organs of rule oppressing their own people. This could not have
happened, if the greed for wealth had not divided the gentiles into rich
and poor; if the "difference of property in a gens had not changed the
community of interest into antagonism of the gentiles" (Karl Marx); and
if the extension of slavery had not begun by branding work for a living
as slavish and more ignominious than plundering.

       *       *       *       *       *

We have now reached the threshold of civilization. This stage is
inaugurated by a new progress in the division of labor. In the lower
stage of barbarism production was carried on for use only; any acts of
exchange were confined to single cases when a surplus was accidentally
realized. In the middle stage of barbarism we find that the possession
of cattle gave a regular surplus to the nomadic nations with
sufficiently large herds. At the same time there was a division of labor
between nomadic nations and backward nations without herds. The
existence of two different stages of production side by side furnished
the conditions necessary for a regular exchange. The upper stage of
barbarism introduced a new division of labor between agriculture and
handicrafts, resulting in the production of a continually increasing
amount of commodities for the special purpose of exchange, so that
exchange between individuals became a vital function of society.
Civilization strengthened and intensified all the established divisions
of labor, especially by rendering the contrast between city and country
more pronounced. Either the town may have the economic control over the
country, as during antiquity, or vice versa, as in the middle ages. A
third division of labor was added by civilization: it created a class
that did not take part in production, but occupied itself merely with
the exchange of products--the merchants. All former attempts at class
formation were exclusively concerned with production. They divided the
producers into directors and directed, or into producers on a more or
less extensive scale. But here a class appears for the first time that
captures the control of production in general and subjugates the
producers to its rule, without taking the least part in production. A
class that makes itself the indispensable mediator between two producers
and exploits them both under the pretext of saving them the trouble and
risk of exchange, of extending the markets for their products to distant
regions, and of thus becoming the most useful class in society; a class
of parasites, genuine social ichneumons, that skim the cream off
production at home and abroad as a reward for very insignificant
services; that rapidly amass enormous wealth and gain social influence
accordingly; that for this reason reap ever new honors and ever greater
control of production during the period of civilization, until they at
last bring to light a product of their own--periodical crises in

At the stage of production under discussion, our young merchant class
had no inkling as yet of the great future that was in store for them.
But they continued to organize, to make themselves invaluable, and that
was sufficient for the moment. At the same time metal coins came into
use, and through them a new device for controlling the producers and
their products. The commodity of commodities that was hiding all other
commodities in its mysterious bosom had been discovered, a charm that
could be transformed at will into any desirable or coveted thing.
Whoever held it in his possession had the world of production at his
command. And who had it above all others? The merchant. In his hands the
cult of money was safe. He took care to make it plain that all
commodities, and hence all producers, must prostrate themselves in
adoration before money. He proved by practice that all other forms of
wealth are reduced to thin wraiths before this personification of
riches. Never again did the power of money show itself in such
primordial brutality and violence as in its youthful days. After the
sale of commodities for money came the borrowing of money, resulting in
interest and usury. And no legislation of any later period stretches the
debtor so mercilessly at the feet of the speculating creditor as the
antique Grecian and Roman codes--both of them spontaneous products of
habit, without any other than economic pressure.

The wealth in commodities and slaves was now further increased by large
holdings in land. The titles of the individuals to the lots of land
formerly assigned to them by the gens or tribe had become so well
established, that these lots were now owned and inherited. What the
individuals had most desired of late was the liberation from the claim
of the gentiles to their lots, a claim which had become a veritable
fetter for them. They were rid of this fetter--but soon after they were
also rid of their lots. The full, free ownership of the soil implied not
only the possibility of uncurtailed possession, but also of selling the
soil. As long as the soil belonged to the gens, this was impossible. But
when the new land owner shook off the chains of the priority claim of
the gens and tribe, he also tore the bond that had so long tied him
indissolubly to the soil. What that meant was impressed on him by the
money invented simultaneously with the advent of private property in
land. The soil could now become a commodity to be bought and sold.
Hardly had private ownership of land been introduced, when the mortgage
put in its appearance (see Athens). As hetaerism and prostitution clung
to the heels of monogamy, so does from now on the mortgage to private
ownership in land. You have clamored for free, full, saleable land.
Well, then, there you have it--tu l'as voulu, Georges Dandin; it was
your own wish, George Dandin.

Industrial expansion, money, usury, private land, and mortgage thus
progressed with the concentration and centralization of wealth in the
hands of a small class, accompanied by the increasing impoverishment of
the masses and the increasing mass of paupers. The new aristocracy of
wealth, so far as it did not coincide with the old tribal nobility,
forced the latter permanently into the background (in Athens, in Rome,
among the Germans). And this division of free men into classes according
to their wealth was accompanied, especially in Greece, by an enormous
increase in the number of slaves[38] whose forced labor formed the basis
on which the whole superstructure of society was reared.

Let us now see what became of the gentile constitution through this
revolution of society. Gentilism stood powerless in the face of the new
elements that had grown without its assistance. It was dependent on the
condition that the members of a gens, or of a tribe, should live
together in the same territory and be its exclusive inhabitants. That
had long ceased to be the case. Gentes and tribes were everywhere
hopelessly intermingled, slaves, clients, and foreigners lived among
citizens. The capacity for settling down permanently which had only been
acquired near the end of the middle stage of barbarism, was time and
again sidetracked by the necessity of changing the abode according to
the dictates of commerce, different occupations and the transfer of
land. The members of the gentile organizations could no longer meet for
the purpose of taking care of their common interests. Only matters of
little importance, such as religious festivals, were still observed in
an indifferent way. Beside the wants and interests for the care of which
the gentile organs were appointed and fitted, new wants and interests
had arisen from the revolution of the conditions of existence and the
resulting change in social classification. These new wants and interests
were not only alien to the old gentile order, but thwarted it in every
way. The interests of the craftsmen created by division of labor, and
the special necessities of a town differing from those of the country,
required new organs. But every one of these groups was composed of
people from different gentes, phratries, and tribes; they included even
strangers. Hence the new organs necessarily had to form outside of the
gentile constitution. But by the side of it meant against it. And again,
in every gentile organization the conflict of interests made itself felt
and reached its climax by combining rich and poor, usurers and debtors,
in the same gens and tribe. There was furthermore the mass of
inhabitants who were strangers to the gentiles. These strangers could
become very powerful, as in Rome, and they were too numerous to be
gradually absorbed by the gentes and tribes. The gentiles confronted
these masses as a compact body of privileged individuals. What had once
been a natural democracy, had been transformed into an odious
aristocracy. The gentile constitution had grown out of a society that
did not know any internal contradictions, and it was only adapted to
such a society. It had no coërcive power except public opinion. But now
a society had developed that by force of all its economic conditions of
existence divided humanity into freemen and slaves, and exploiting rich
and exploited poor. A society that not only could never reconcile these
contradictions, but drove them ever more to a climax. Such a society
could only exist by a continual open struggle of all classes against one
another, or under the supremacy of a third power that under a pretense
of standing above the struggling classes stifled their open conflict and
permitted a class struggle only on the economic field, in a so-called
"legal" form. Gentilism had ceased to live. It was crushed by the
division of labor and by its result, the division of society into
classes. It was replaced by the State.

       *       *       *       *       *

In preceding chapters we have shown by three concrete examples the three
main forms in which the state was built up on the ruins of gentilism.
Athens represented the simplest, the classic type: the state grew
directly and mainly out of class divisions that developed within gentile
society. In Rome the gentile organization became an exclusive
aristocracy amid a numerous plebs of outsiders who had only duties, but
no rights. The victory of the plebs burst the old gentile order asunder
and erected on its remains the state which soon engulfed both gentile
aristocracy and plebs. Finally, among the German conquerors of the Roman
empire, the state grew as a direct result of the conquest of large
foreign territories which the gentile constitution was powerless to
control. But this conquest did not necessitate either a serious fight
with the former population or a more advanced division of labor.
Conquerors and conquered were almost in the same stage of economic
development, so that the economic basis of society remained undisturbed.
Hence gentilism could preserve for many centuries an unchanged
territorial character in the form of mark communes, and even rejuvenate
itself in the nobility and patrician families of later years, or in the
peasantry, as e. g. in Dithmarsia.[39]

The state, then, is by no means a power forced on society from outside;
neither is it the "realization of the ethical idea," "the image and the
realization of reason," as Hegel maintains. It is simply a product of
society at a certain stage of evolution. It is the confession that this
society has become hopelessly divided against itself, has entangled
itself in irreconcilable contradictions which it is powerless to banish.
In order that these contradictions, these classes with conflicting
economic interests, may not annihilate themselves and society in a
useless struggle, a power becomes necessary that stands apparently above
society and has the function of keeping down the conflicts and
maintaining "order." And this power, the outgrowth of society, but
assuming supremacy over it and becoming more and more divorced from it,
is the state.

The state differs from gentilism in that it first divides its members by
territories. As we have seen, the old bonds of blood kinship uniting the
gentile bodies had become inefficient, because they were dependent on
the condition, now no longer a fact, that all gentiles should live on a
certain territory. The territory was the same; but the human beings had
changed. Hence the division by territories was chosen as the point of
departure, and citizens had to exercise their rights and duties wherever
they chose their abode without regard to gens and tribe. This
organization of inhabitants by localities is a common feature of all
states. It seems natural to us now. But we have seen what long and hard
fighting was required before it could take, in Athens and Rome, the
place of the old organization by blood kinship.

In the second place, the state created a public power of coërcion that
did no longer coincide with the old self-organized and armed population.
This special power of coërcion is necessary, because a self-organized
army of the people has become impossible since the division of society
into classes took place. For the slaves belonged also to society. The
90,000 citizens of Athens formed only a privileged class compared to the
365,000 slaves. The popular army of the Athenian democracy was an
aristocratic public power designed to keep the slaves down. But we have
seen that a police force became also necessary to maintain order among
the citizens. This public power of coërcion exists in every state. It is
not composed of armed men alone, but has also such objects as prisons
and correction houses attached to it, that were unknown to gentilism. It
may be very small, almost infinitesimal, in societies with feebly
developed class antagonisms and in out of the way places, as was once
the case in certain regions of the United States. But it increases in
the same ratio in which the class antagonisms become more pronounced,
and in which neighboring states become larger and more populous. A
conspicuous example is modern Europe, where the class struggles and wars
of conquest have nursed the public power to such a size that it
threatens to swallow the whole society and the state itself.

In order to maintain this public power, contributions of the citizens
become necessary--the taxes. These were absolutely unknown in gentile
society. But to-day we get our full measure of them. As civilization
makes further progress, these taxes are no longer sufficient to cover
public expenses. The state makes drafts on the future, contracts loans,
public debts. Old Europe can tell a story of them.

In possession of the public power and of the right of taxation, the
officials in their capacity as state organs are now exalted above
society. The free and voluntary respect that was accorded to the organs
of gentilism does not satisfy them any more, even if they might have it.
Representatives of a power that is divorced from society, they must
enforce respect by exceptional laws that render them specially sacred
and inviolable.[40] The lowest police employee of the civilized state
has more "authority" than all the organs of gentilism combined. But the
mightiest prince and the greatest statesman or general of civilization
may look with envy on the spontaneous and undisputed esteem that was the
privilege of the least gentile sachem. The one stands in the middle of
society, the other is forced to assume a position outside and above it.

The state is the result of the desire to keep down class conflicts. But
having arisen amid these conflicts, it is as a rule the state of the
most powerful economic class that by force of its economic supremacy
becomes also the ruling political class and thus acquires new means of
subduing and exploiting the oppressed masses. The antique state was,
therefore, the state of the slave owners for the purpose of holding the
slaves in check. The feudal state was the organ of the nobility for the
oppression of the serfs and dependent farmers. The modern representative
state is the tool of the capitalist exploiters of wage labor. At certain
periods it occurs exceptionally that the struggling classes balance each
other so nearly that the public power gains a certain degree of
independence by posing as the mediator between them. The absolute
monarchy of the seventeenth and eighteenth century was in such a
position, balancing the nobles and the burghers against one another. So
was the Bonapartism of the first, and still more of the second, empire,
playing the proletariat against the bourgeoisie and vice versa. The
latest performance of this kind, in which ruler and ruled appear equally
ridiculous, is the new German empire of Bismarckian make, in which
capitalists and laborers are balanced against one another and equally
cheated for the benefit of the degenerate Prussian cabbage junkers.[41]

In most of the historical states, the rights of the citizens are
differentiated according to their wealth. This is a direct confirmation
of the fact that the state is organized for the protection of the
possessing against the non-possessing classes. The Athenian and Roman
classification by incomes shows this. It is also seen in the medieval
state of feudalism in which the political power depended on the quantity
of real estate. It is again seen in the electoral qualifications of the
modern representative state. The political recognition of the
differences in wealth is by no means essential. On the contrary, it
marks a low stage of state development. The highest form of the state,
the democratic republic, knows officially nothing of property
distinctions.[42] It is that form of the state which under modern
conditions of society becomes more and more an unavoidable necessity.
The last decisive struggle between proletariat and bourgeoisie can only
be fought out under this state form.[43] In such a state, wealth exerts
its power indirectly, but all the more safely. This is done partly in
the form of direct corruption of officials, after the classical type of
the United States, or in the form of an alliance between government and
bankers which is established all the more easily when the public debt
increases and when corporations concentrate in their hands not only the
means of transportation, but also production itself, using the stock
exchange as a center. The United States and the latest French republic
are striking examples, and good old Switzerland has contributed its
share to illustrate this point. That a democratic republic is not
necessary for this fraternal bond between stock exchange and government
is proved by England and last, not least, Germany, where it is doubtful
whether Bismarck or Bleichroeder was more favored by the introduction of
universal suffrage.[44] The possessing class rules directly through
universal suffrage. For as long as the oppressed class, in this case the
proletariat, is not ripe for its economic emancipation, just so long
will its majority regard the existing order of society as the only one
possible, and form the tail, the extreme left wing, of the capitalist
class. But the more the proletariat matures toward its
self-emancipation, the more does it constitute itself as a separate
class and elect its own representatives in place of the capitalists.
Universal suffrage is the gauge of the maturity of the working class. It
can and will never be anything else but that in the modern state. But
that is sufficient. On the day when the thermometer of universal
suffrage reaches its boiling point among the laborers, they as well as
the capitalists will know what to do.

The state, then, did not exist from all eternity. There have been
societies without it, that had no idea of any state or public power. At
a certain stage of economic development, which was of necessity
accompanied by a division of society into classes, the state became the
inevitable result of this division. We are now rapidly approaching a
stage of evolution in production, in which the existence of classes has
not only ceased to be a necessity, but becomes a positive fetter on
production. Hence these classes must fall as inevitably as they once
arose. The state must irrevocably fall with them. The society that is to
reorganize production on the basis of a free and equal association of
the producers, will transfer the machinery of state where it will then
belong: into the Museum of Antiquities by the side of the spinning
wheel and the bronze ax.

       *       *       *       *       *

Civilization is, as we have seen, that stage of society, in which the
division of labor, the resulting exchange between individuals, and the
production of commodities combining them, reach their highest
development and revolutionize the whole society.

The production of all former stages of society was mainly collective,
and consumption was carried on by direct division of products within
more or less small communes. This collective production was confined
within the narrowest limits. But it implied the control of production
and of the products by the producers. They knew what became of their
product: it did not leave their hands until it was consumed by them. As
long as production moved on this basis, it could not grow beyond the
control of the producers, and it could not create any strange ghostly
forces against them. Under civilization, however, this is the inevitable

Into the simple process of production, the division of labor was
gradually interpolated. It undermined the communism of production and
consumption, it made the appropriation of products by single individuals
the prevailing rule, and thus introduced the exchange between
individuals, in the manner mentioned above. Gradually, the production of
commodities became the rule.

This mode of production for exchange, not for home consumption,
necessarily passes the products on from hand to hand. The producer gives
his product away in exchange. He does no longer know what becomes of it.
With the advent of money and of the trader who steps in as a middleman
between the producers, the process of exchange becomes still more
complicated. The fate of the products becomes still more uncertain. The
number of merchants is great and one does not know what the other is
doing. The products now pass not only from hand to hand, but also from
market to market. The producers have lost the control of the aggregate
production in their sphere of life, and the merchants have not yet
acquired this control. Products and production become the victims of
chance. But chance is only one pole of an interrelation, the other pole
of which is called necessity. In nature, where chance seems to reign
also, we have long ago demonstrated the innate necessity and law that
determines the course of chance on every line. But what is true of
nature, holds also good of society. Whenever a social function or a
series of social processes become too powerful for the control of man,
whenever they grow beyond the grasp of man and seem to be left to mere
chance, then the peculiar and innate laws of such processes shape the
course of chance with increased elementary necessity. Such laws also
control the vicissitudes of the production and exchange of commodities.
For the individual producer and exchanger, these laws are strange, and
often unknown, forces, the nature of which must be laboriously
investigated and ascertained. These economic laws of production are
modified by the different stages of this form of production. But
generally speaking, the entire period of civilization is dominated by
these laws. To this day, the product controls the producer. To this day,
the aggregate production of society is managed, not on a uniform plan,
but by blind laws, that rule with elementary force and find their final
expression in the storms of periodical commercial crises.

We have seen that human labor power is enabled at a very early stage of
production to produce considerably more than is needed to maintain the
producer. We have found that this stage coďncided in general with the
first appearance of the division of labor and of exchange between
individuals. Now, it was not long before the great truth was discovered
that man may himself be a commodity, and that human labor power may be
exchanged and exploited by transforming a man into a slave. Hardly had
exchange between men been established, when men themselves were also
exchanged. The active asset became a passive liability, whether man
wanted it or not.

Slavery, which reaches its highest development in civilization,
introduced the first great division of an exploited and an exploiting
class into society. This division continued during the whole period of
civilization. Slavery is the first form of exploitation, characteristic
of the antique world. Then followed feudalism in the middle ages, and
wage labor in recent times. These are the three great forms of
servitude, characteristic of the three great epochs of civilization.
Their invariable mark is either open or, in modern times, disguised

The stage of commodity production introducing civilization is marked
economically by the introduction of (1) metal coins and, thus, of money
as capital, of interest, and of usury; (2) merchants as middlemen
between producers; (3) private property and mortgage; (4) slave labor as
the prevailing form of production. The form of the family corresponding
to civilization and becoming its pronounced custom is monogamy, the
supremacy of man over woman, and the monogamous family as the economic
unit of society. The aggregation of civilized society is the state,
which throughout all typical periods is the state of the ruling class,
and in all cases mainly a machine for controlling the oppressed and
exploited class. Civilization is furthermore characterized on one side
by the permanent introduction of the contrast between city and country
as the basis of the entire division of social labor; on the other side
by the introduction of the testament by which the property holder is
enabled to dispose of his property beyond the hour of his death. This
institution is a direct blow at the gentile constitution, and was
unknown in Athens until the time of Solon. In Rome it was introduced
very early, but we do not know when.[45] In Germany it was originated by
the priests in order that the honest German might bequeath his property
to the church without any interference.

With this fundamental constitution, civilization had accomplished things
for which the old gentile society was no match whatever. But these
exploits were accomplished by playing on the most sordid passions and
instincts of man, and by developing them at the expense of all his other
gifts. Barefaced covetousness was the moving spirit of civilization from
its first dawn to the present day; wealth, and again wealth, and for the
third time wealth; wealth, not of society, but of the puny individual,
was its only and final aim. If nevertheless the advanced development of
science, and at repeated times the highest flower of art, fell into its
lap, this was only due to the fact that without them the highest
emoluments of modern wealth would have been missing. Exploitation of one
class by another being the basis of civilization, its whole development
involves a continual contradiction. Every progress of production is at
the same time a retrogression in the condition of the oppressed class,
that is of the great majority. Every benefit for one class is
necessarily an evil for the other, every new emancipation of one class a
new oppression for the other. The most drastic proof of this is
furnished by the introduction of machinery, the effects of which are
well known to-day. And while there is hardly any distinction between
rights and duties among barbarians, as we have seen, civilization makes
the difference between these two plain even to the dullest mind. For now
one class has nearly all the rights, the other class nearly all the

But this is not admitted. What is good for the ruling class, is alleged
to be good for the whole of society with which the ruling class
identifies itself. The more civilization advances, the more it is found
to cover with the cloak of charity the evils necessarily created by it,
to excuse them or to deny their existence, in short to introduce a
conventional hypocrisy that culminates in the declaration: The
exploitation of the oppressed class is carried on by the exploiting
class solely in the interest of the exploited class itself. And if the
latter does not recognize this, but even becomes rebellious, it is
simply the worst ingratitude to its benefactors, the exploiters.[46]

And now, in conclusion, let me add Morgan's judgment of civilization
(Ancient Society, page 552):

"Since the advent of civilization, the outgrowth of property has been so
immense, its forms so diversified, its uses so expanding and its
management so intelligent in the interest of its owners that it has
become, on the part of the people, an unmanageable power. The human mind
stands bewildered in the presence of its own creation. The time will
come, nevertheless, when human intelligence will rise to the mastery
over property, and define the relations of the state to the property it
protects, as well as the obligations and the limits of the rights of its
owners. The interests of society are paramount to individual interests,
and the two must be brought into just and harmonious relations. A mere
property career is not the final destiny of mankind, if progress is to
be the law of the future as it has been of the past. The time which has
passed away since civilization began is but a fragment of the past
duration of man's existence; and but a fragment of the ages yet to come.
The dissolution of society bids fair to become the termination of a
career of which property is the end and aim, because such a career
contains the elements of self-destruction. Democracy in government,
brotherhood in society, equality in rights and privileges, and universal
education, foreshadow the next higher plane of society to which
experience, intelligence and knowledge are steadily tending. It will be
a revival, in a higher form, of the liberty, equality and fraternity of
the ancient gentes."



[37] Author's note.

Especially on the northwest coast of America; see Bancroft. Among the
Haidahs of the Queen Charlotte Islands some households gather as many as
700 members under one roof. Among the Nootkas whole tribes lived under
one roof.

[38] Author's note.

The number of slaves in Athens was 365,000. In Corinth it was 460,000 at
the most flourishing time, and 470,000 in Aegina; in both cases ten
times the number of free citizens.

[39] Author's note.

The first historian who had at least a vague conception of the nature of
the gens was Niebuhr, thanks to his familiarity with the Dithmarsian
families. The same source, however, is also responsible for his errors.

[40] Translator's note.

The recent demand for a law declaring the person of the U. S. President
sacred above all other representatives of the public power and making an
assault on him an exceptional crime is a very good case in point.

[41] Translator's note.

"Junker" is a contemptuous term for the land-owning nobility.

[42] Translator's note.

In the United States, the poll tax is an indirect property
qualification, as it strikes those who, through lack of employment,
sickness or invalidity, are unable to spare the amount, however small,
of this tax. Furthermore, the laws requiring a continuous residence in
the precinct, the town, the county, and the State as a qualification for
voters have the effect of disqualifying a great number of workingmen who
are forced to change their abode according to their opportunities for
employment. And the educational qualifications which especially the
Southern States are rigidly enforcing tend to disfranchise the great
mass of the negroes, who form the main body of the working class in
those States.

[43] Translator's note.

In Belgium, where the proletariat is now on the verge of gaining
political supremacy, the battle cry is: "S. U. et R. P." (Suffrage
Universelle et Representation Proportionelle).

[44] Translator's note.

Suffrage in Germany, though universal for men is by no means equal, but
founded on property qualifications. In Prussia, e. g., a three class
system of voting is in force which is best illustrated by the following
figures: In 1898 there were 6,447,253 voters; 3.26 per cent belonged to
the first class, 11.51 per cent to the second class, and 85.35 per cent
to the third class. But the 947,218 voters of the first and second
classes had twice as many votes as the five and a half millions of the
third class.

[45] Author's note.

Lassalle's "System of Acquired Rights" argues in its second part mainly
the proposition that the Roman testament is as old as Rome itself, and
that there has never been in Roman history "a time without a testament."
According to him, the testament had its origin in pre-Roman times in the
cult of the departed. Lassalle, as a convinced Hegelian of the old
school, derives the provisions of the Roman law, not from the social
condition of the Romans, but from the "speculative conception" of will,
and thus arrives at this totally anti-historic conclusion. This is not
to be wondered at in a book that draws from the same speculative
conception the conclusion that the transfer of property was purely a
side issue in Roman inheritance. Lassalle not only believed in the
illusions of Roman jurists, especially of the earlier ones, but he
outstripped their fancy.

[46] Author's note.

I first intended to place the brilliant critique of civilization,
scattered through the works of Fourier, by the side of Morgan's and of
my own. Unluckily I cannot spare the time. I only wish to remark that
Fourier already considers monogamy and private property in land the main
characteristics of civilization, and that he calls them a war of the
rich against the poor. We also find with him the deep perception that
the individual families (les families incoherentes) are the economic
units of all faulty societies divided by opposing interests.

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Property and the State, by Frederick Engels


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