Page:1902 Encyclopædia Britannica - Volume 26 - AUS-CHI.pdf/715

This page needs to be proofread.




the family been won. Charity is hardly recognized as a virtue, nor infanticide as an evil. Hospitality—the beginning of a larger social life—is non-existent. The self-support of the community is secured by marriage, and when relations fail marriage becomes a provision against poverty. Then by the tribal system is created another safeguard against want. Apart also from these methods of maintenance, at a very early stage there is charitable relief. The festivals of the solstices and equinoxes, and of the seasons, are the occasions for sacrifice and relief; and, as Christmas customs prove, the instinct to give help or alms at such festival periods still remains. Charity is concerned primarily with certain elemental forces of social life; the relation between these primitive instincts and impulses that still influence charity should not, therefore, be overlooked. The basis of social life is also the basis of charitable thought and action. The savage is the civilized man in thorough. “The lowest races have,” Lord Avebury writes, “no institution of marriage.” Many have no word for “dear” or “beloved.” The child belongs to the tribe rather than to the parent. In these circumstances a problem of charity such as the following may arise :— “Am I to starve, while my sister has children whom she can sell ? ” a question asked of Burton by a negro. From the point of view of the tribe, ah able-bodied man would be more valuable than dependent children, and the relationship of the larger family of brothers and sisters would be a truer claim to help than that of mother and child. Subsequently the child is recognized as related, not to the father, but to the mother, and there is “a kind of bond which lasts for life between mother and child, although the father is a stranger to it.” Slowly only is the relative position of both parents, with different but correlative responsibilities, recognized. The first two steps of charity have then been made: the social value of the bond between the mother, and then between the father, and the child has been recognized. Until this point is reached the morality necessary to the making of the family is wanting, and for a long time afterwards it is hardly won. The virtue of chastity—the condition precedent to the higher family life—is unrecognized. Indeed, the set of such religious thought as there may be is against it. Abstract conceptions, even in the nobler races, are lacking. The religion of life is vaguely struggling with its animality, and that which it at last learns to rule it at first worships. In these circumstances there is little charity for the child and little for the stranger. “ There is,” Dr Schweinfurth wrote in his Heart of Africa, “an utter want of wholesome intercourse between race and race. For any member of a tribe that speaks one dialect to cross the borders of a tribe that speaks another is to make a venture at the hazard of his life.” The religious obligations that fostered and sanctified family life among the Greeks and Romans and Jews are unknown. Much later in development comes charity for the child, with the abhorrence of infanticide—against which the Jewish-Christian charity of 2000 years ago uttered its most vigorous protests. If the child belonged primarily to the tribe or state, its maintenance or destruction was a common concern. This motive influenced the Greeks, who are historically nearer the earlier forms of social life than ourselves. For the common good they exposed the deformed child ; but also “ where there were too many, for in our state population has a limit,” as Aristotle says, “the babe or unborn child was destroyed.” And so, to lighten their own responsibilities, parents were wont to do in the slow years of the degradation of the Roman Empire, though the interest of the state then required a contrary policy. The transition to our present feeling of responsibility for childlife has been very gradual and uncertain, through the Middle Ages and even till the 18th century. Strictly it may be said that all penitentiaries and other similar institutions are concrete protests on behalf of a better family life. The movement for the care of children in the 18th century naturally and instinctively allied itself with the penitentiary movement. The want of regard for child-life, when it becomes a source of economic pressure, suggests how in earlier stages of civilization all that charitable apparatus for the assistance of children becomes unnecessary, even if the need, so far as it does arise, is not adequately met by the recognized obligations of the clan-family or brotherhood. In the case of barbarous races charity and self-support may be considered from some other points of view. Self-support is secured in two ways—by marriage and by slavery. “For a man or woman to be unmarried after the age of thirty is unheard of” (T. H. Lewin, Wild Races of South-East India). On the other hand, if any one is without a father, mother, or other relative,



and destitute of the necessaries of life, he may sell himself and become a slave. Thus slavery becomes a provision for poverty when relations fail. The clan-family may serve the same purpose. David Livingstone describes the formation of the clanfamily among the Bakuena. “ Each man, by virtue of paternity, is chief of his own children. They build huts round his. . . . Near the centre of each circle of huts is a spot called a ‘kotla,’ with a fireplace ; here they work, eat, &c. A poor man attaches himself to the ‘ kotla ’ of a rich one, and is considered a child of the latter.” Thus the clan-family is also a poor-relief association. Studies in folk-lore bring to light many relations between the charity of the old world and that of our own day. In regard to the charity of the early community, we may take the 8th century b.c. as the point of departure. The Odyssey (about 800 b.c.) and Hesiod (about 700 b.c.) are roughly parallel with Amos (816- community. 775), and represent two streams of thought that meet in the early Christian period. The period covered by the Odyssey seems to merge into that of Hesiod. We take the former first, dealing with the clanfamily and the phratry, which are together the self-maintaining unit of society, with the general relief of the poor, with hospitality, and with vagrancy. In Hesiod we find the customary law of charity in the earlier community definitely stated, and indications of the normal methods of neighbourly help which were in force in country districts. First of the family and brotherhood, or phratry. The family (Od. viii. 582) included alike the wife’s father and the daughter’s husband. It was thus a clanlike family. Out of this was developed the phratry or brotherhood, in which were included alike noble families, peasants, and craftsmen, united by a common worship and responsibilities and a common customary law (themis). Zeus, the god of social life, was worshipped by the phratry. He was the father of the law (themis). He was god of host and guest. Society was thus based on law, the brotherhood, and the family. The irresponsible man, the man worthy of no respect or consideration, was one who belonged to no brotherhood, was subject to no customary law, and had no hearth or family. The phratry was, and became afterwards still more, “a natural guild.” Outside the self-sustaining phratry was the stranger, including the wayfarer and the vagrant; and partly merged in these classes was the beggar, the recognized recipient of the alms of the community. To change one’s abode and to travel was assumed to be a cause of reproach {II. ix. 648). The “ land-louper ” was naturally suspected. On the other hand, a stranger’s first thought in a new country was whether the inhabitants were wild or social (dikaioi), hospitable and God - fearing (Od. xiii. 201). Hospitality thus became the first public charity; Zeus sent all strangers and beggars, and it was against all law (themis) to slight them. Out of this feeling—a kind of glorified almsgiving—grew up the system of hospitality in Greek states and also in the Roman world. The host greeted the stranger (or the suppliant). An oath of friendship was taken by the stranger, who was then received with the greeting, Welcome (Chaire), and water was provided for ablution, and food and shelter. In the larger house there was a guests’ table. In the hut he shared the peasant’s meal. The custom bound alike the rich and poor. Gn parting presents were given, usually food for the onward journey, sometimes costly gifts. The obligation was mutual, that the host should give hospitality and that the guest should not abuse it. From early times tallies were exchanged between them as evidence of this formal relationship, which each could claim again of the other by the production of the token. And further, the relationship on either side became hereditary. Thus individuals and families and tribes remained linked in friendship and in the interchange of hospitalities. Under the same patronage of Zeus and the same laws of hospitality were the vagrants and beggars. The vagrant