1902 Encyclopedia > Concubinage


CONCUBINAGE, the state of a man and woman cohabit-ing as married persons without the sanction of a legal mar-riage. In a scriptural sense, it denotes cohabiting lawfully with a wife of second rank, who enjoyed no other conjugal right but that of cohabitation, and whom the husband could repudiate and dismiss with a small present (Gen. xxi.) In like manner he could, by means of presents, exclude his children by her from the heritage (Gen. xxv.) To judge from the conjugal histories of Abraham and Jacob, the im-mediate cause of concubinage was the barrenness of the i lawful wife, who in that case introduced her maid-servant to her husband, for the sake of having children. There was a singular practice authorized not only in Israel (Deut. xxv.), and anciently in Athens and Sparta, but by the laws of Menu, that a brother should raise up the name of the dead upon his inheritance,—obviously a relic of polyandry. In process of time, however, concubinage appears to have degenerated into a regular custom among the Jews; and the institutions of Moses were directed to prevent excess and abuse in that respect.

The Roman concubinatus differed from justce nuptice in not giving the father the potestas over his children, and from contubemium, which was the concubinage of slaves. It was a permanent monogamous relation, free from some of the restrictions imposed by the civil law upon marriages. Although the married woman had a more dignified position, concubinage was thought the appropriate union for persons of different ranks, as a patronus and liberta. By imperial legislation, naturales liberi and concubines were gradually admitted to limited rights of succession ; and the legiti-mation per subsequens matrimonium completed their status.

Concubinage is also used to signify a marriage with a woman of inferior condition, to whom the husband does not convey his rank. Such concubinage was beneath marriage both as to dignity and civil rights, yet concubine was a re-putable title, and very different from that of " mistress " among us. The concubine also might be accused of adultery in the same manner as a wife. By French law the presence of a concubine in the house entitles the wife to a divorce. This kind of concubinage is still in use in some countries, particularly in Germany, under the title of halb-ehe (half-marriage), or left-hand marriage, in allusion to the manner of its being contracted, namely, by the man giving the woman his left hand instead of the right. This is a real marriage, though without the usual solemnity ; and the parties are both bound to each other for ever, though the female cannot bear the husband's name and title, Neither spouse has any right of succession to the other, but the children take a third of the father's estate, if he leaves no lawful children.

Du Cange observes that one may gather from several passages in the epistles of the popes that they anciently allowed of such connections. The seventeenth canon of the first Council of Toledo (400 A.T>.) declares that be who with a faithful wife keeps a concubine is excommunicated : but that if the concubine serve him as a wife, so that he has only one woman, under the title of concubine, he shall not be rejected from communion. This applied not only to laymen, but to inferior priests, who were then allowed to marry. The latter councils extend the name concubine to disreputable women not kept in the house. That is also the meaning of the word in the 8th rubric of the concordat of 1517 between Leo X. and Francis I. The Council of Nictea refers to a class of secret concubines, super inductee, and St Augustine denounces all irregular relations.

It is certain the patriarchs had a great number of wives, and that these did not all hold the same rank,—some being inferior to the principal wife. Solomon had 700 wives and 300 concubines. Q. Curtius observes that Darius was fol-lowed in his army by 365 concubines, all in the equipage of queens.

In most Mahometan and other polygamous countries, female slaves are used as concubines and enjoy a cer-tain status. Under the ancient Fueros, which succeeded the Lex Visigothorum in Spain, concubinage was recognized by the name of barragania. The parties entered into a contract (carta de mancebia e campanera), by which the man took the concubine por todos los dios que yo visquiere, and she received right to bread, table, and knife (apan, mesa, e cuchello). Apart from contract, some Fueros gave the faith-ful concubine a right of succession to one-half of the man's acquired property. The Council of Valladolid (1228) reproved the barragania of priests. Similarly the Gragas, or ancient law of Iceland, recognized the frilla, or concubine, alongside of the husfreyia, or lawful wife, though the two were not permitted to dwell in the same house. According to the Danish hand vesten, the concubine who had publicly lived with a man and partaken his meals for three winters became a lawful wife. The Celtic handfast marriage may also be referred to. (w. c. s.)

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