Open main menu

Page:Earth-Hunger and Other Essays.djvu/288

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
262
EARTH HUNGER AND OTHER ESSAYS

Throughout a wide range of rudimentary society women are treated as beasts of burden. When regarded industrially they are drudges or slaves. The most disagreeable work is all put upon them. They are therefore regarded as property, and are assimilated to property to such a degree that the rights which the men have in respect to women are logically developed from the notion of property in the wives. The right of property in this case, as in other primitive cases, rests upon force; a man has more wives than one just as he would have more slaves than one, if he could capture or keep them. The polygamous form of the family is immensely higher than the form last described; but, when the man first enters upon permanent relations with his wife or wives and his children, we find him ruling by pure brute force. "Ruling" in this case was not a passive carrying of authority, but a persistent and active domination, or force, in the form in which one person's will overrides and crushes that of others.

Furthermore, wives are obtained, in this stage of society, by capture; that is, by force actively and actually exerted against the woman, her relatives, and weaker rivals. No other social arrangement can be mentioned in whose history force has played so large a part as in property.

Now it seems to be believed that the legitimacy or moral justifiableness of property is impaired by showing that force has marked its history and growth from the beginning, and especially it seems to be believed that property in land, the only property sufficiently permanent to run back to the times of force, can be proved unjustifiable, and its owners can be dispossessed in favor of other persons, by the power of this learned investigation; but if force proved against property proves it illegitimate,