The Origin and Development of the Moral Ideas - Vol. 1

By Edward Westermarck | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XXIII
CHARITY AND GENEROSITY

IN previous chapters we have examined the regard for the life and physical well-being of others as displayed in moral ideas concerning homicide and the infliction of bodily harm. We shall now consider the same subject from another point of view, namely, the valuation of such conduct as positively promotes the existence and material comfort of a fellow-creature.

There is one duty so universal and obvious that it is seldom mentioned: the mother's duty to rear her children, provided that they are suffered to live. Another duty--equally primitive, I believe, in the human race--is incumbent on the married man: the protection and support of his family. We hear of this duty from all quarters of the savage world.

Among the North American Indians it was considered disgraceful for a man to have more wives than he was able to maintain.1 Mr. Powers says that among the Patwin, a Californian tribe which he believes to rank among the lowest in the world, "the sentiment that the men are bound to support the women--that is to furnish the supplies--is stronger even than among us."2 Among the Iroquois it was the office of the husband "to make a mat, to repair the cabin of his wife, or to construct a new one." The product of his hunting expeditions,

____________________
1
Waitz, Anthropologie der Naturvölker, iii. 109. Carver, Travels through the Interior Parts of North America, p. 367.
2
Powers, Tribes of California, p. 222.

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