A somewhat curious custom, remarks Rev. Mr. Macdonald, among certain African tribes is for the father to fast after the birth of a child, in order to Bhow that he recognizes that he, as well as the mother, should take some interest in the young stranger.8 These incidents and customs are cited to show that the husband's growing disregard for these duties, keeping pace with civilization, and the religious refinement of society, is the more remarkable that the instinct of the father to protect his wife and young is one of the most primitive of our being, and shared equally by both men and animals.
A Burmese woman can demand a divorce if her husband is not able, or refuse, to support her properly;1 and among the Mohammedans the maintenance of the progeny is so completely the father's duty that the mother is even entitled to claim wages for nursing her own children. The Alaska Indians believe that a youth who marries before he has killed a deer will have no children;2 and those of Pennsylvania considered it a shame for a boy to think of marrying before he had scalped an enemy, or given some other proof of his manhood.* The Karamanians, also, according to Strabo, were only considered marriageable when they had killed an enemy; and the Galla warrior dared not dream of taking a wife until he could return to camp with an enemy's genital organs dangling from his waist-belt; but whether this act was born of the savage instinct to exploit his own personal prowess, or as a tacit regard to the suggestions of matrimony, the celebrated traveller fails to inform us.4
The statements made, and authorities quoted,—for the latter of which I am indebted, chiefly, to Westermarck's admirable " History of Human Marriage,"—while establishing clearly the wife's dependence on her husband, as an important phase of sex-life as it stands related to society, brings us naturally to the consideration of marriage itself, as a primal institution of both the social and religious life, although on such a vast subject my review must necessarily be a very brief one. But there surely never was a period in human history at which such a discussion could be more appropriately entered upon than the present, when the prevailing laxity of our marriage laws seems to be sapping the very foundations of that sacred institution, and the equally obvious and growing distaste, on the part of women, themselves, for the cares and duties of maternity, appears equally to threaten not only the stability and perpetuity of society and the home, but the very permanence of the State.