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not at all, at least not necessarily, the primitive man
was identical with a modern savage, in another respect there is equal or greater reason to suppose that he was most unlike a modern savage. A modern savage is anything but the simple being which philosophers of the eighteenth century imagined him to be: on the contrary, his life is twisted into a thousand curious habits; his reason is darkened by a thousand strange prejudices; his feelings are frightened by a thousand cruel superstitions. The whole mind of a modern savage is, so to say, tattooed over with monstrous images, — there is not a smooth place anywhere about it: but there is no reason to suppose the minds of prehistoric men to have been so cut and marked; on the contrary, the creation of these habits, these superstitions, these prejudices, must have taken ages. In his nature, it may be said, prehistoric man was the same as a modern savage; it is only in his acquisition that he was different.
It may be objected that if man was developed out of any kind of animal (and this is the doctrine of evolution, which, if it be not proved conclusively, has great probability and great scientific analogy in its favor), he would necessarily at first possess animal instincts; that these would only gradually be lost; that in the mean time they would serve as a protection and an aid, and that prehistoric men, therefore, would have important helps and feelings which existing savages have not. And probably of the first men, the first beings worthy to be so called, this was true: they had or may have had certain remnants of instincts which aided them in the struggle of existence, and as reason gradually came these instincts may have waned away. Some instincts certainly do wane when the intellect is applied steadily to their subject matter: the curious “counting boys," the arithmetical prodigies who can work by a strange innate faculty the most wonderful sums, lose that faculty always partially, sometimes completely, if they are taught to reckon by rule like the rest of mankind; in like manner I have heard it said that a man could soon reason himself out of the instinct of decency if he would only take pains and work hard enough: and perhaps other primitive instincts may have in like manner passed away. But this does not affect my argument: I am only saying that these instincts, if they ever existed, did pass away,- that there was a period, probably an immense period as we reckon time in human history, when prehistoric men lived much as savages live now, without any important aids and helps.
The proofs of this are to be found in the great works of Sir John Lubbock and Mr. Tylor, of which I just now spoke. I can only bring out two of them here,
First, it is plain that the first prehistoric men had the flint tools which the lowest savages use, and we can trace a regular improvement in the finish and in the efficiency of their simple instruments corresponding to that which we see at this day in the upward transition from the lowest savages to the highest. Now, it is not conceivable that a race of beings with valuable instincts supporting their existence and supplying their wants would need these simple tools: they are exactly those needed by very poor people who have no instincts, and those were used by such, for savages are the poorest of the poor. It would be very strange if these same utensils, no more no less, were used by beings whose discerning instincts made them in comparison altogether rich: such a being would know how to manage without such things, or if it wanted any would know how to make better.
And secondly, on the moral side we know that the prehistoric age was one of much license; and the proof is, that in that age descent was reckoned through the female only, just as it is among the lowest savages. “Maternity,” it has been said, “is a matter of fact, paternity is a matter of opinion;"
and this not very refined expression exactly conveys the connection of the lower human societies. In all sļave-owning communities — in Rome formerly, and in Virginia yesterday -- such was the accepted rule of law: the child kept the condition of the mother, whatever that condition was; nobody inquired as to the father, — the law once for all assumed that he could not be ascertained. Of course no remains exist which prove this or anything else about the morality of prehistoric man, and morality can only be described by remains amounting to a history; but one of the axioms of prehistoric investigation binds us to accept this as the morality of the prehistoric races if we receive that axiom. It is plain that the widespread absence of a characteristic which greatly aids the possessor in the conflicts between race and race probably indicates that the primary race did not possess that quality. If one-armed people existed almost everywhere in every continent; if people were found in every intermediate stage, some with the mere germ of the second arm, some with the second arm half-grown, some with it nearly complete,– we should then argue:- “The first race cannot have had two arms, because men have always been fighting, and as two arms are a great advantage in fighting, one-armed and half-armed people would immediately have been killed off the earth; they never could have attained any numbers. A diffused deficiency in a warlike power is the best attainable evidence that the prehistoric men did not possess that power.” If this axiom be received, it is palpably applicable to the marriage bond of primitive races : a cohesive “family” is the best germ for a campaigning nation. In a Roman family, the boys from the time of their birth were bred to a domestic despotism which well prepared them for a subjection in after life to a military discipline, a military drill, and a military despotism; they were ready to obey their generals because they were compelled to obey their fathers; they conquered the world in manhood because as children they were bred in homes where the tradition of passionate valor was steadied by the habit of implacable order. And nothing of this is possible in loosely bound family groups (if they can be called families at all) where the father is more or less uncertain ; where descent is not traced through him, where, that is, property does not come from him, where such property as he has passes to his sure relations, to his sister's children. An ill-knit nation which does not recognize paternity as a legal relation would be conquered like a mob by any other nation which had a vestige or a beginning of the patria potestas. If, therefore, all the first men had the strict morality of families, they would no more have permitted the rise of semi-moral nations anywhere in the world than the Romans would have permitted them to arise in Italy, — they would have conquered, killed, and plundered them before they became nations; and yet semi-moral nations exist all over the world.
It will be said that this argument proves too much; for it proves that not only the somewhat-before-history men, but the absolutely first men, could not have had close family instincts, and yet if they were like most though not all of the animals nearest to man they had such instincts. There is a great story of some African chief who expressed his disgust at adhering to one wife, by saying it was “like the monkeys." The semi-brutal ancestors of man, if they existed, had very likely an instinct of constancy which the African chief and others like him had lost : how then, if it was so beneficial, could they ever lose it? The answer is plain : they could lose it if they had it as an irrational propensity and habit, and not as a moral and rational feeling. When reason came, it would weaken that habit like all other irrational habits; and reason is a force of such infinite vigor-a victorymaking agent of such incomparable efficiency – that its continually diminishing valuable instincts will not matter if it grows itself steadily all the while. The strongest competitor wins in both the cases we are imagining: in the first, a race with intelligent reason but without blind instinct beats a race with that instinct but without that reason; in the second, a race with reason and high moral feeling beats a race with reason but without high moral feeling, and the two are palpably consistent.
There is every reason, therefore, to suppose prehistoric man to have been deficient in much of sexual morality, as we regard that morality. As to the detail of “primitive marriage” or “no marriage” — for that is pretty much what it comes to - there is of course much room for discussion; both Mr. M’Lennan and Sir John Lubbock are too accomplished reasoners and too careful investigators to wish conclusions so complex and refined as theirs to be accepted all in a mass, besides that on some critical points the two differ: but the main issue is not dependent on nice arguments. Upon broad grounds we may believe that in prehistoric times, men fought both to gain and to keep their wives; that the strongest man took the best wife away from the weaker man, and that if the wife was restive, did not like the change, her new husband beat her; that (as in Australia now) a pretty woman was sure to undergo many such changes, and her back to bear the marks of many such chastisements; that in the principal department of human conduct (which is the most tangible and easily traced, and therefore the most obtainable specimen of the rest) the minds of prehistoric men were not so much immoral as unmoral, – they did not violate a rule of conscience, but they were somehow not sufficiently developed for them to feel on this point any conscience, or for it to prescribe to them any rule.
The same argument applies to religion. There are indeed many points of the greatest obscurity both in the present savage religions and in the scanty vestiges of prehistoric religion ; but one point is clear,