A CHANGE somewhat similar to that in the position of jealousy has taken place in the rôle of the Family during the progress of society into and through the period of civilisation. In the primitive human association the Family was large in extent, and in outline vague; the boundaries of kinship, in cases where the woman might have several husbands, or the husband several wives, were hard to trace; paternal feeling was little or not at all developed; and the whole institution rested on the maternal instinct of care for the young. In the middle societies of civilisation, and with monogamic arrangements, the Family grew exceedingly definite in form and circumscribed in extent. The growth of property and competition, and the cellular system of society, developed a kind of warfare between the units of which society was composed. These units were families. The essential communism and fraternity of society at large was dwarfed now and contracted into the limits of the family; and this institution acquired an extraordinary importance from the fact that it alone kept alive and showed in
miniature (intensified by the darkness and chaos and warfare outside) the sacred fire of human fraternity. So great was this importance in fact that the Holy Family became one of the central religious conceptions of the civilised period, and it was commonly thought that society owed its existence to the Family--instead of, as was the case, the truth being the reverse, namely that the Family was the condensation of the principle which had previously existed, though diffused and unconscious, throughout society.
The third and future stage is of course easy to see--that is, the expansion again of the conception of the family consciously into the fraternity and communism of all society. It is obvious that as this takes place the family will once more lose its definition of outline and merge more and more again with the larger social groups in which it is embedded--but not into the old barbaric society in which the conception of human fellowship lay diffused and only dimly auroral, but into the newer society in which it shall be clear and all-illuminating as the sun.
Thus the Family institution in its present form, and as far as that form may be said to be artificial, will doubtless pass away. Nevertheless there remains of course, and must remain, its natural or physiological basis--namely the actual physical
relation of the parents to each other and to the child. One perhaps of the most valuable results of the Monogamic family institution under civilisation has been the development of the paternal feeling for the child, which in primitive society was so weak. To-day the love of man and wife for each other is riveted, as it never was in ancient days, by the tender beauty of the child-face, in which each parent sees with strange emotion his own features blended with the features of his loved one--the actual realisation of that union which the lovers so desired, and which yet so often seemed to them after all not consummated. The little prolongation of oneself, carrying in its eyes the star-look of another's love, and descending a stranger into the world to face a destiny all its own, touches the most personal and mortal-close feelings (as well as perhaps the most impersonal) of the heart. And while to-day this sight often reconciles husband and wife to the legal chains which perforce hold them together, in a Free Society, we may hope, it will more often be the sign and seal of a love which neither requires nor allows any kind of mechanical bond.