James Quayle Dealey.

The family in its sociological aspects online

. (page 3 of 8)
Online LibraryJames Quayle DealeyThe family in its sociological aspects → online text (page 3 of 8)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

premacy. Both state and church in the course
of centuries have tried many experiments in
regulation, and the results have not been alto-
gether satisfactory. This statement may become
more clear by tracing the trend of social regula-
tion in respect to the family of Western civiliza-


This family, though influenced somewhat by
Hebraic and Greek teachings, is fundamentally
based on Roman and Germanic standards and
customs. Early Latin traditions represent that
civilization as first nomadic and then agricul-
tural. During this period is depicted a perman-
ent monogamous family of chaste standards,
solidified by ancestral worship and compact kin-
ship ties. In the first five hundred years of Roman
legal development, four forms of marriage arose,
one after the other, illustrating in their varying
standards the changing ideals of domestic rela-
tionship, (i) The earliest known form of mar-
riage, the conferreatio, was confined to the patri-
cians, and in the main represented a familiar
patriarchal ceremonial form: it included traces
of survivals of capture marriage, the procession
escorting the bride to the bridegroom's home,
and religious ceremonies such as her introduc-
tion to the hearth and ancestral gods of her new
family. This form disappeared from common
use quite early in Roman history except that it
long survived as a sacred form of marriage for
those families that aspired to priestly ofifice.
Among the population below the patrician rank
prevailed two other forms of marriage ceremony
and these in time became common among patri-
cians also. (2) In one of these, the coemptio, or
purchase form, the parties concerned, in the pre-


sence of a magistrate and witnesses, went through
the form of a sale of the bride to the groom, a sur-
vival, doubtless, of an earlier practice of a real
purchase. In this form, which also became obso-
lete somewhat early, the state is present in the
magistrate, who, however, acts merely as a
recorder of sale and purchase and had no other
authority over the marriage. (3) A still more
popular form existed in the usus, in which the
law assumed that a legal marriage existed after
cohabitation as man and wife for the space of one
year. Under these three forms of marriage the
wife came to be directly under the power and
authority of her husband {in manu viri). Divorce
was possible but was rarely used in the first form,
though more common under the other two.
The power of divorce lay with the husband,
though he was guided in his decision by a family
council composed of relatives of both parties.
Whatever dowry he received with his wife was
generally returned at divorce, a real deterrent
unless, as in Cicero's case, the husband had in
view another prospective wife with a larger
dowry. (4) At an uncertain date, but about the
time when Rome definitely embarked on a
policy of territorial extension beyond Italy
through conquest, a new form of marriage ^ arose
which soon became and remained the dominant
^ Matrimonium sine conventione in manum mariti.


form throughout the later Republic and the
Empire. Under the usus marriage, a wife, by
absenting herself for three consecutive nights
from the bed of her husband, continued to be his
wife, but did not pass under his legal authority,
remaining under the authority of her own family.
This fourth form of marriage consisted in a usus
marriage in which the privilege of the trinoctium
had not been used, but yet the wife legally did
not become subject to her husband. This be-
came, therefore, a marriage contracted at the
will of the parties directly concerned, in which
both man and wife were equal partners, since
the wife was legally independent of her husband,
and remained under the authority of her own
family or guardian. These last three forms of
marriage were perfectly legal and respectable ; in
each case there was a formal betrothal; but by
slow change of custom the wife gradually be-
came a free person equal in the eyes of the law to
her husband, and marriage was a mutual priv-
ate contract needing no authorization from
either priest or magistrate.

This modification in marriage forms typifies
changes that had taken place in the domestic
institution as a whole. In the early Roman sys-
tem the patronymic-patriarchal idea had been
carried to an extreme. The pater was the ruling
head of his familia, which consisted of wife, child-


ren, dependents, or clients and slaves. His au-
thority (patria potestas) was supreme through-
out his entire life, though in important matters
affecting the family as a whole he would consult
with a council selected from his gejis or kindred
outside of his own familia. Relationship was
agnatic, that is, traced through males only, even
a wife being legally classed as her husband's
daughter. But, as may be traced in the changing
legal customs of the citizenship body, this highly
artificial system became slowly modified into one
much more natural and flexible. Without tracing
details, the trend was in the direction of subjecting
to some extent the family to the state through
the introduction of general regulations: rights
were secured to children and even to slaves as
against the arbitrary power of the father and
master; kinship was broadened so as to include
cognates as well as agnates, that is kinship was
traced through both parents; and the wife was
secured in her personal and property rights
through the legal recognition of the fourth form
of marriage.

On the other hand, as long as Roman life
remained simple and purely patriarchal, empha-
sizing as ideals devotion to ancestral gods, to
one's kin, and to the civitas or state, moral stand-
ards remained high and family life though stern
was just, a sort of Roman puritanism. But when


Rome embarked on a career of conquest, a rapid
and demoralizing change took place. The sturdy
farming stock of early Rome was soon depleted
in numerous wars, plebeians and even freedmen
began to acquire the rights of citizenship, slaves
poured into the Republic through conquest, and
soon ancient standards of morals had become
largely a tradition. Ancestral worship and kin-
ship ties became mere forms as adoption became
usual, and Oriental worship with its many lasciv-
ious rites crept in and supplanted in popular
regard Roman divinities. Slavery, also, with its
inevitable concubinage and prostitution, furn-
ished every facility for sexual immorality and
profligacy. The rural population, unable to com-
pete with slave labor, drifted to the cities, too
often into the slums. Economic occupations in
trade and manufactures were largely monop-
olized by men of alien stock, since such vocations
were not considered as honorable pursuits for
citizens. The state, enriched by wealth plundered
from the provinces or won as booty from the
conquered, developed a citizenship of two classes :
a wealthy class, with its mass of parasites, rioting
in luxury, and a demoralized proletariat living
largely on public bounty.

Urban life to a large extent became degenerate;
presumably in the survivals of middle-class Ufe
and in rural sections of the Empire a fair degree


of family purity and of moral standards was main-
tained, but little is known of these by contrast
with the glaring sins of the perverted degenerates
of the time. There is a "yellow " literature as well
as a "yellow journalism," and from it one learns
much of national corruption, but little of the
solid virtues existing by its side. A similar state-
ment would be true in respect to the morality of
Roman women. These in the earlier centuries
had been famous for their virtue and devotion
to family and country. It was fitting, there-
fore, that a woman should have equal rights in
the marriage relation for her own sake and for
the sake of her children. These were won through
the introduction of the contract marriage already
mentioned, which allowed her an equal voice in
marriage and divorce and rights over her own
property and children. Yet in times of profligacy
woman's freedom easily became the means
whereby she might "count her years by the
number of husbands she had had." On the other
hand, husbands had had the same right of divorce
for centuries and had often exercised it. In any
case, under the immoral conditions of the time it
was perhaps a matter of small consequence
whether adultery and fornication took place
illegally or through a system of annual divorces.
The rights won by women were necessary and
proper; the times were what they were, not be-



cause of the existence of these rights, but because
of the demoralization wrought through the intro-
duction of unearned wealth and slavery. Rome
had built up moral and religious standards suited
* to a patriarchal civilization, which had suddenly
changed through conquest into a civilization
based on plunder supplemented by commerce
and manufactures, and contaminated by Ori-
ental vice. No moral standards suited to the
new conditions were established ; the old became
less and less applicable in detail, and finally
every man did what seemed right in his own
eyes, guided somewhat in higher morals by tradi-
tions of ancient standards and by the teachings
of Greek philosophers in the forms of Epicurean-
ism and Stoicism. Western civilization was suc-
cumbing to the flood tides of sexual depravity,
and the Roman race had become a mongrel stock,
enervated and effeminate, awaiting decay or

Standards of law and of political imperialistic
administration formed the best contribution
made by Rome to modern civilization. Racial
strength came not from Rome but for the most
part from those Keltic, Gallic, and Germanic
tribes whose names are so interwoven with
Roman history. The Germans were the most
warlike among these, being still largely in the
hunting-pastoral stage. The others had advanced


farther in civilization and were settled into defin-
ite communities engaged in grazing and farm-
ing. As might be expected in that simple life,
the monogamous family prevailed; the women,
though subordinated to the males, yet had large
freedom and influence and had a distinct voice
in the choice of husbands; marriage was per-
formed with set rites under the fiction of a sale
by the father or guardian to the husband. Writ-
ers have noted many survivals of metronymic,
group and capture marriages, but fundamentally
the family was patronymic and mildly patri-
archal. As always in early civilization, marriage
contracts concerned the family only; neither
state nor religion had any voice in the matter.
Magistrates might be present to honor, and
priests to bless, but the sanction of the marriage
lay in the agreement and will of the families and
individuals concerned. Chastity was demanded
from the woman and adultery punished with
death, though this crime on the part of the man
might be atoned for by a fine. Aside from adul-
tery he had his own standard of sex morality,
a much lower one than that allowed to women.
Divorce was in his hands and any cause satis-
factory to him was sufficient, though he natur-
ally had to take into account the vengeance of
his wife's kin if she were wantonV divorced.
There was no peculiar innate virtue in these


races. Under similar conditions all over the
world might be expected a family of similar
moral standards. Tribes and clans of kindred
blood, fairly equal in social standing and living
a strenuous life in the midst of constant danger,
naturally develop monogamous families in which
each person has regard for the rights of his
friends and kinsmen, and no one has wealth and
leisure enough to make sexual excesses an end in
life. The danger comes when through successful
war plundered wealth frees men from irksome
toil, captured women become concubines, and
subjugated races furnish numerous opportunities
for slavery and unbridled lust. Under such con-
ditions men readily become demoralized and
their immoralities pass by social contagion to the
women of the community. It goes without argu-
ment presumably that the women of a race never
become loose and wanton until after the men have
set them the example. In fact, it is becoming in-
creasingly difficult in modern days to demand with
a good face that women shall remain virtuous
whose husbands are not, so that the alternative
is presented of allowing a single standard of low
grade in sex morality for both sexes alike, or of in-
sisting on a single standard of high grade for male
as for female. The former alternative spells degrad-
ation for the race, and the latter the attainment
of a much higher morality than at present exists.


These barbarian races by contact with Roman
civilization experienced the vicissitudes of chang-
ing moral standards. When conquered they were
subjected to all the cruelties involved in Roman
massacre and slavery; when conquerors, at the
overthrow of the Roman Empire, they came in
contact with a degenerate and depraved people
and their morality was not helped thereby. For
centuries a conflict of moral standards and civil-
izations was silently fought, and from it finally
emerged the modern European nations, neither
so vicious as the Romans nor so virtuous as the
barbarians, but containing in their civilization
a generous admixture of both elements. The
problem from that time forth was to raise the
standards of domestic morals and to that task
religion and democracy were addressing them-



In primitive civilization religion had been a
composite of many elements. On all sides were
mysterious and malevolent beings who must be
propitiated and at the best would dole out nig-
gard blessings. By magic, ofTerings, and sacrifice,
by due rites and ceremony, much might be done
to ward off evil, but misery even so was surer than
happiness, for the gods were many and hostile
to man; and it was largely luck or fate that de-
termined the affairs of life, since the gods were
often at variance one with another. Yet there
arose slowly in men's minds thoughts of a per-
manent element in the supernatural. They be-
gan to exalt among the gods those energies in
nature that seemed to them uniformly powerful ;
the heavens, the sun and moon, the storm and
the fire, especially appealed to them, and these
they personified and exalted above other gods.

There was, however, one fascinating problem
quite incomprehensible that made religion to
everyone a heartfelt experience — the problem
of life and birth and death. With childlike curi-


osity they asked how Hfe began in man, and in
the animal and plant world around them. They
thought out theories of human origin, and, long
before Darwin, asserted that man sprung from
beasts, through supernatural agency, and hence
arose the worship of the totem as emblematic of
one's remote ancestors. But when the male's
part in procreation became known, worship was
gradually transferred from the totem to male
ancestry, since it was then believed that the male
was the really important agent in parenthood,
the female being merely the temporary carrier
and sustainer of the life imparted. But there
were still other mysteries demanding explana-
tion; the meaning of life itself, the attraction
existing between the sexes, and yet the necessity
of subordinating the passion of love to demands
made by the group in regulation of marriage.
In seeking to answer these problems there de-
veloped throughout advancing civilization a wor-
ship of the creative principle, symbolized often
by the phallus, but frequently personified in some
god or goddess of love. The excesses generated
in this worship found an opposing principle in
the worship of a goddess of marriage, who pro-
tected the normal and socially sanctioned form
of love as against the growing licentiousness
of phallic worship. Thus arose definitely the
antagonism between sexual practices irrespect-


ive of social consequences, and a sex morality
devised fundamentally for the protection of

Such beliefs as these passed into patriarchal
civilization and became the basis for the highest
type of religion known to man before the birth
of Christ. Ancestor worship welded into one
system beliefs in the great divinities of nature, in
the existence of one's ancestors as propitious
spirits, in a universal life and in the inspiration
of love, hallowed for ends sanctified by social and
divine command. Thus religion became a really
helpful stimulus to man, who performed his daily
tasks with the belief that kindly beings environed
him, ready to help and bless those who reverenced
the gods and did right among men. For a man
believed that if he did his part the gods would
give seedtime and harvest, increase of flocks and
herds, children to care for his old age and a long
life full of tangible blessings. Such a definite re-
ligion, so exact in its demands and recompenses,
was especially helpful to family organization,
since it was rooted in the very life and hearth of
the kinship. Back of the head of the family was
a long line of ancestry whom he sustained by
offerings and worship, and who sustained him
and his family in the vicissitudes of life. He be-
lieved that he himself at death would join them
to watch over his descendants in turn, and there-


fore it became his obligation and privilege to
marry in due form, to become the father of sons
and daughters, and to instruct his heir in the
religious traditions of the family in order that at
his death the rites and ceremonies of ancestral
worship might be continued for another gener-
ation. Obviously there was a certain social ad-
vantage in a religious system that made it the
interest of every responsible man to marry in
legal marriage and to become the parent of many
sons and daughters. It was an ancient system of
eugenics and is in marked contrast to the system
of "race suicide" prevalent among the socially
higher classes of advanced civilization.

These religious teachings also had a steadying
influence on the family as a whole. The notion
of kinship was considerably broadened. To the
metronymic kinship was added the patronymic,
and systems of adoption had developed, thus
countenancing a fictitious as well as a blood kin-
ship. Men's memories grew stronger and retained
more of the past; and by tradition each family
saw itself related to its neighbors and forming a
link in the chain of a long line of ancestry, which
extended backwards into hoary antiquity and
forwards by faith until a man saw his seed as the
dust of the earth for multitude.^ Under such
conditions the individual loomed small in com-
* Gen. xni, i6.


parison with his family or clan or tribe, and
yet he had his place as an essential part in the
system. Within this family organization each
child was born under authority, each as he at-
tained maturity entered manhood with a feeling
of responsibility, and unconsciously imbibed
throughout his entire life feelings of reverence for
the past and reliance on the good will of his kin-
dred, his ancestors, and the gods. Such a system
had a steadying influence on the youth, and de-
veloped, as in early Rome, a high type of manly
endurance and courage. Every man lived sur-
rounded by the stalwart spirits of his ancestors,
who rejoiced in his success and welcomed him
at death to their companionship. As a religious
and domestic system it has proved a success to
many races past and present and has contributed
to the modern family a large share of its best

The time came, however, when faith grew weak
in the divinities of nature and in the efficacy of
ancestral worship, as static civilizations disin-
tegrated through wars and commerce and dreams
of world-empire came to the front through Mac-
edon and Rome. With world-empires came
thoughts of world-religions, and among these
Christianity gained a foothold in the countries
bordering on the Mediterranean. As it gained
ground it sought to apply its teachings to the


morals and institutions of its time and in this
way exercised a deep influence over the family.
\It is hard to estimate with any exactness or
fairness the influence of Christianity on the
family. It is not uncommon for churchmen to
assume that whatever good there is in the mod-
ern family came from the teachings of Christ-
ianity, though it might, on the other hand, be
stoutly maintained that the church's attitude
toward marriage and celibacy and its attempts
to regulate marriage and divorce have distinctly
handicapped social progress. Social progress is
not the work of religion only, since it involves
the cooperative activity of all social institutions
working harmoniously for common ends. From
the sociological standpoint the mere teaching or
preaching of great principles makes little or no
impression on most persons, unless they are liv-
ing under conditions favorable to such princi-
ples. Adaptation to environment is a funda-
mental for survival and this applies to ideals as
well as to organisms. When, therefore, the ideal-
ism of Christianity came into Western civiliza-
tion it attracted many men's minds by its purity
and won their formal consent and adherence,
but the conditions of social life were radically
opposed to a religion of so high a grade. Here
and there the influence of the new religion was
powerful enough to revolutionize men's lives and


to purify the environment about them, but no
such revolutionary change affected the whole of
the Roman Empire so that perforce Christian
practices became adapted to the environment
and thereby became merely a modified paganism.
Christianity originating in Judea should natur-
ally have included within it some elements from
the Jewish family, but this influence is barely
discernible. In fact, the Jews had been conquered
so often and Judea was so closely in contact with
its Oriental neighbors that its family life was not
unlike that of these nations. The land was poor
and lacking in natural resources, its religion was
formal and its best aspects were known only to
the learned. The family was patriarchal in type
and monogamous in form; but divorce, a male's
privilege, was common; harlotry was widespread
and women in general estimation were considered
to be inferior to men. Conditions on the whole
were neither better nor worse than in countries
near by, but there was little in family life worthy
of being set up as a model for a higher civiliza-
tion. Moreover, Christianity did not long remain
under Jewish influences. Through the labors of\
Paul and of Greek converts Christianity came
in contact with a world-civilization and was pro-
foundly influenced by it. Its teachings soon
brought it in conflict with the Roman state, and
for centuries it had to struggle for life against


persecution. The result of this contest finally
brought about an alliance between these two
institutions, and soon the church and its leaders
began to formulate a policy in respect to the

The basis of any such policy naturally was
sought from the teachings of Christ and the
Apostles. In these teachings are broad world-
views such as that all in God's sight are equal
whether male or female, that marriage should be
monogamous, that the standards of chastity are
binding on men as well as on women, and that
marriage should be a union of two equals united
in a lifelong tie through belief in a common re-
ligion. On the other hand, the possibility of
divorce under the conditions of life is admitted,
and in Pauline teaching woman's status in home
and church is plainly inferior to man's. Then,
too, there is praise of celibacy, a sort of hint that
marriage is a substitute for fornication, and an
implication that sexual passion is an evil in the
world. This lower tone came in part through the
belief in the speedy end of the world and hence the
lack of a necessity for race continuance; more-
over, licentious conditions about them were so
vicious that the reaction against vice tended to
become ascetism, which In those days emphasized
the Eastern teaching that all bodily desires
should be resisted as sinful. From these contra-


dictory sets of teachings it proved hard to for-
mulate a policy, and in consequence wide differ-
ences of opinion arose among the leaders in the

1 3 5 6 7 8

Online LibraryJames Quayle DealeyThe family in its sociological aspects → online text (page 3 of 8)