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Heirship of Nephews.

Martius, he yet maintains that the Amazonian communities of South America existed outside the imagination of Spanish explorers.


The custom that the children belong to the mother in all social respects does not necessarily indicate that the paternity was regarded as uncertain, but that the bodily relation to the mother was held to be incomparably stronger, just as, until quite recent times, physiologists have adhered to the opinion, that in the generation of offspring the function of the father must be considered quite subordinate. The strange ideas of procreation which are held by the so-called savages, are illustrated by the superstition of the Saliva Indians on the Orinoco, that every woman who gives birth to twins must necessarily have been guilty of adultery. 10 The view of the subject to which we have alluded explains the occurrences of the heirship of nephews, that is to say, the right of inheriting from the brother of the mother to the exclusion of his own offspring. Thus among the Tuaregs the dignity of chief is always transferred to the sister's sons. 102 On the Gold Coast the son inherited from his maternal uncle, the daughter from the mother's sister, 103 and even now the throne of Ashanti does not pass to the next heir of the body, but to the son of the brother or sister. 104 Heirship of nephews was also found by Livingstone among the. Kebrabasa negroes on the Zambesi. 105 In the Antilles, the sister's children, as the nearest relations, at least excluded the brother's children from the succession. 106 The heirship of nephews is also customary in America among the Kolushs and other coast tribes in the north-west, 107 among the Montagnais in Labrador, 108 and also among the Hurons and Iroquois. 109 This social institution was formerly far more widely diffused and perhaps prevailed in all those nations in which the children followed the tribe of the mother. When Europeans, in Africa and America,

101 Jos. Gumilla, El Orinoco ilustrado. 1741.

102 Bulletin de la Soc. de Geogr.

Paris, 1863.

103 Bosman, Guinese Goud-Kust.

104 Winwood Reade, Savage Africa. p. 43. 106 Oviedo, Historia general, lib. v. cap. 3.

107 Waitz, Anthropologie, vol. iii. 108 Youle Hind, Labrador. 1863. 109 Charlevoix, Nouvelle France.

105 Zambesi, p. 162.

inquired into the cause of this family arrangement, they were invariably answered that no doubt could exist as to the relationship to the sister's children, whereas that on the father's side might be questioned. This certainly sounds as if conjugal fidelity was wanting, and as if very loose morals had prevailed; yet it is. more probably due to an erroneous apprehension of the physiology of paternity, as the heirship of nephews occurs among so many nations of the strictest morality, such as the Kolushs above mentioned. Winwood Reade, who draws unfavourable pictures of the negroes of Western Africa, yet says that, notwithstanding the fact that the nephew is regarded as heir both in Dahomey and among the Adiya of Fernando Po, the first or, at any rate, the secondcommission of adultery is punished by death; nay, he even admits that in West Africa, if a girl disgraces her family by a false step, expulsion from the tribal community ensues. 110 The heirship of nephews is also habitual among nations such as the Iroquois and Hurons, who are examples of severe self-restraint. Young couples were obliged to live together as brother and sister for an entire year to prove that higher motives than the gratification of sensual pleasure had brought them together. Joseph Gumilla says similarly of the Red Indians, "They are all highly sensitive to the infidelity of their wives, though the Caribs alone inflict exemplary punishment upon them; the whole community aiding to slaughter the guilty individuals in public." At another time he mentions an Indian woman who poisoned herself that she might not break her marriage vow. Uncertainty with regard to paternity cannot have led to the heirship of nephews in those races which observe the custom of the male child-bed.12 Hence, until strong evidence is adduced, preference of the sister's children before the actual bodily heir, and the reverence for the mother's brother, ought not to be regarded as a sign of conjugal immorality.


As no other suitable place may be found, we must be allowed here to add that kissing is not everywhere the custom. Darwin

110 Savage Africa, pp. 48-61. 1863. 111 Lafitau, Moeurs des sauvages.

Charlevoix, Nouvelle France.

112 El Orinoco ilustrado. 1741. There were, however, even gross breaches of conjugal fidelity.

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has already informed us that in the South Seas this expression of affection is unknown to the Maori of New Zealand, the Tahitians, the Papuans, and the Australians, and also, in America, to the Eskimo and Fuegians.113 Winwood Reade terrified a negro girl by kissing her, for in Western Africa such caresses are not usual; Bayard Taylor likewise found among the Lapp women a decided aversion to this form of contact. It is of course impossible in the case of all those nations which slit open the lips and insert small pieces of wood, such as the tribes on the coast of Behring's Sea, the Kolushs, the Botocudos of Brazil, and the negroes of Central and Southern Africa.



THE germs of civil life exist in the family. The Chinese, more than any other people, have strengthened this tie; among them reverence for parents is developed into a kind of religious worship. One of the most sacred duties which unites the members of the family is the "vendetta," an institution not entirely deserving of our abhorrence, for we ought to respect it as the first attempt at legal protection. In past ages all the nations of the world observed this duty, which has been retained to our own days in Corsica and Albania. Confucius imposed upon a son the duty of carrying arms until he had taken and slain his father's murderer. The extinct Tasmanians also regarded such vengeance as a duty.1 In like manner among their kinsmen, the Australians, all the members of a tribe were responsible for every sanguinary act committed by any of their number.2 Martius describes this custom as common to all nations of Brazil, and notices it also among the Macushi and Arowaks of Guayana.3 Among the Fijians the duty of vengeance was transmitted from father to son, and from the latter to the nearest relations.4 This duty of defence

113 This caress is despised by the Marquesas Islanders (see Langsdorff, Reise um die Welt), and probably by all Polynesians; perhaps all nations among whom the Malay kiss is customary.Ise ole st .23.

1 Waitz, Anthropologie, vol. vi.

2 Ibid. vol. vi.

3 Ethnographie, vol. i.

H. Greffrath, in the Zeitschrift für Ethnologie. 1871.

serves a useful purpose, even if the chastising hand does not overtake the malefactor himself, but falls only on one who belongs to the same confederation.

It may seem strange that the sympathy of the ethnologist should be enlisted in favour of this doctrine of duty, but the following event, which happened in Arabia, will be sufficient explanation. In the year 1863, an Italian named Guarmani was sent to Nedshd by the Emperor Napoleon to buy thoroughbred horses. In the beginning of March, 1864, as he was wandering about with the Beni Ehtebe, a horde of Bedouins, they were attacked by their enemy, Emir Abdallah Ibn Feisal ibn Sa'wd. The conflict lasted several days, until at last an unexpected ally came to the aid of the Beni Ehtebe. Among the auxiliaries of the Emir were the Beni Kahtan who, during the successive days of hostilities, from the 9th to the 14th of March, had constantly skirmished with the Beni Ehtebe, but at the same time remained at a prudent distance. When the victors examined the field of battle they did not find among the slain a single individual of the Kahtans, whose entire party had seized the first available opportunity to fly. When we remember that the law of vengeance requires an accurate account not only of all deaths but of all bodily injuries, it is significant. that, on the other hand, none of the Beni Ehtebe ascribed his wounds to any of the Beni Kahtan.5 The Kahtan horde had always lived in peace with the Ehtebe, and had only followed the Emir to the battle on compulsion. In this instance, in which these two tribes by mutual consent had only pretended to fight, the law of vengeance showed its beneficial influence, for if any wounds had been inflicted, they would have given rise to a series of acts of violence descending to distant generations. We thus see that the "vendetta" was a protection to life. Hence, if an Arab kills his own relation no avenger pursues him, for he has injured himself, nor does the murder of an outlaw or one expelled from his tribe involve consequences of any kind. Where vengeance is

5 Guarmani, Itineraire au Neged septentrional, in the Bulletin de la Société Geogr. Paris, 1865.

Von Maltzan, Sittenschilderungen aus Südarabien, vol. xxi. p. 123. Globus, 1872.



regarded as a duty, he who does not execute it is regarded with contempt. As retribution has thus been developed into an affair of honour, it is very difficult for these sanguinary feuds to end. They are most easily ended by the equalization of the number of deaths and wounds on both sides. The balance in any other case must be made up in money's worth. The Aneze Bedouins require for the life of a freeman, fifty female camels, a dromedary, a mare, a black slave, a coat of mail and a gun; some tribes demand money to the value of £50, and others only half as much.

As manners become gentler, compensation in money's worth becomes the practice, and hence is developed the custom of weregild, or blood-money. Wherever such penalties were imposed, the "vendetta" formerly prevailed. In Guinea, in Bosman's 9 days, that is, in the beginning of the eighteenth century, the death of every freeman was atoned for by heavy fines, which were paid to the relations. In Siam, contrary to our ideas of justice, a smaller sum is paid for the killing of an old man than for that of men in the prime of life. 10 The old Germans paid the weregild partly to the family of the slaughtered person, partly to the community." Among the Kaffirs justice has so far advanced that the fines are paid to the chief instead of to the injured parties, as if the wrong had been inflicted on the society or the person who represents it. 12 They justify the fact that the kinsmen are left without compensation, by the beautiful saying, that one cannot eat one's own blood.13 The "vendetta" demands an equivalent retribution, according to the scriptural words,

7 Among the Kuki, a tribe in Southern Asia, the kinsmen of a man killed by a tiger looked upon themselves as dishonoured until they had slain a tiger. Tylor, Primitive Culture, vol. i. p. 282.

Burckhardt, Notes on the Bedouins. London, 1830.

9 Guinese Goud-Tand-en Slavekust.

10 Brossard de Corbigny, in the Revue maritime et coloniale, tom. xxxiii. 11 Tacitus, Germ. cap. 12. Pars multae regi, vel civitati, pars ipsi, qui vindicatur, vel propinquis ejus absolvitur. Comp. J. Grimm, Deutsche Rechtalterthümer, and G. Geib, Lehrbuch des deutschen Strafrechtes. Leipzic, 1861.

12 Fritsch, Eingeborne Südafrika, p. 97.

13 Maclean, Kafir Laws and Customs. Mount Coke, 1858.

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