The distinctions of society, in this, as well as nearly every other country, have always influenced marriage. In England, before the Norman conquest, the aristocracy was Saxon. Afterwards it was Norman; and in both periods unions between the two races were infrequent. The descendants of the Germanic conquerors of Gaul dominated France for nearly a thousand years; and up to the fifteenth century the French nobility was of Frankish or Burgundian origin, the caste-pride of which is a matter of history; and here also the aristocracy kept itself untainted by marriage.11 The Sanscrit word varna, signifying color, sufficiently indicates the distinctions of high and low caste in India. The fairer Aryans, when they took possession of the country, found it inhabited by a dark race; and the bitter antipathies of color and religion, thus resulting, as well as the racial differences of feature, are apparent even to this day.1 In America, subsequent to the early European immigration, caste distinction was quite common, white blood being a synonym of nobility; and in La Plata, Spaniards, Mexicans and Mestizos were frequently separated from each other in the churches.3 So strong is this idea of caste among savage peoples that, in the South Sea Islands, it was a common belief that only the nobles were possessed of a soul; and one of these who deliberately married a girl from the ranks of the people was punished with death.3 In the higher ranks of Polynesia, marriages were only contracted between persons of corresponding position; and in Tahiti, if a noble lady chose an inferior mate, or vice versa, the children resulting were put to death.* Class, or tribe endogamy prevails in Ceylon, Siam, Korea and Japan; and in China the lower orders are not permitted to marry outside the class to which they belong.
In Europe similar conditions exist; and in America, more and more, the social orders are becoming divided in this respect. In recent times, however, as nations are gradually drawing nearer and nearer to each other, through commercial and educational influences, the national prejudices which characterized the middle ages are fast disappearing. The foreigner who, as late as the seventeenth century, was called in Germany ein Blender, because he stood outside the law, enjoys to-day an equal position with the native-born citizen; and the widening of sympathy, and extension of religious teaching, have resulted in breaking down racial barriers, to a great extent, and in promoting many marriages which heretofore would have been impossible.
When I say religious teaching I mean, of course, modern religious teaching, since the prohibition of intermarriage among the early Christians was a part of their doctrine. The Council of Elvira forbade Christians giving their daughters to heathen husbands; and excommunication was the penalty of such disobedience.5 The Roman Church prohibited the marriage of Christians with heathens and Jews—impedimentum cultus disparitatis; as well as mixed marriages generally—impedimentum mixtae religwnis; and the first Protestant Church also forbade such unions. The Greek Church distinguished between schismatics and heretics, permitting marriage with the former but not with the latter* in Russia, Greece, Servia, and many other countries where the Greek faith prevails, both Roman Catholics and Protestants being regarded as schismatics but not heretics.1