Howitt and Fison Papers


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tip70-10-24-3 Taplin to Fison and Smithsonian Schedule




Washington, November 27th, 1871.

Dear Sir,-In behalf of this Insititution, I write tothank you for the valuable aid you have afforded our Collaborator,Hon. Lewis H. Morgan, in his researches in regard to systems ofrelationship, and to ask that you will continue your co-operationin this line.

There is, at present, no branch of Science of more general interest than that of Anthropology

Whatever assistance you may render in collecting factsrelative to the subject in question will be duly acknowledged bythe Institution, while the results of your labors will be properlyappreciated by the cultivators of science throughout the world.

I am, very truly, yours,Joseph Henry,Secretary Smithsonian Institution

Rev. L. Fison

Last edit 5 months ago by ALourie


The following letter, as well as that from the SmithsonianInstitution on the preceding page, was received long after theSchedules were printed. This fact accounts for the differencein the dates, and for the position of the letters in the Circular,they having had to be printed at different times.L. FISON.

I have pleasure in stating my belief that the enquiry, inwhich the Rev. Lorimer Fison has been induced by his regardfor the interests of science to take part, is one of great im-portance to ethnology; that is being carried on under excel-lent auspices; and that any persons who will furnish Mr. Fisonwith information may feel assured that they are rendering aservice to all students of the history of humanity.GOLDWIN SMITH,Late Professor of Modern History in the University of Oxford.

ITHACA, NEW YORK, U.S.,May 22, 1872.

Last edit 5 months ago by ALourie


Sydney, March 6th, 1871.SIR - About twenty years ago Mr. Lewis H. Morgan, of Rochester, NewYork, discovered among the Iriquois Indians an elaborate system of kin-ship widely differing from ours. Subsequent extensive inquiries carried onby this gentleman, under the auspices of the Smithsonian Insititution,Washington, U. S., disclosed the astonishing fact that this complicatedsystem is in use not only among all the North American Indian tribes, butalso among the Tamil and Telugu peoples of Southern India, who numbersome 28 millions.

Having made enquiries among the Fijians and the Friendly Islanders, atthe instance of Professor Goldwin Smith, of Cornell University, I foundthe system prevailing among all their tribes, and have moreover lately metwith unmistakable traces thereof among the aborigines of Queensland.

The chief peculiarities of the Tamilian system may be briefly stated as follows:-

1. I being male, the children of my brothers are my sons and daughters,while the children of my sisters are my nephews and nieces; but the grand-children of my sisters, as well as those of my brothers, are my grand-children.

2. I being female, the children of my sisters are my sons and daughters,while the children of my brothers are my nephews and nieces; but thegrandchildren of my brothers, as well as those of my sisters, are mygrandchildren.

3. All my father's brothers are my fathers, but all my father's sisters aremy aunts.

4. All my mother's sisters are my mothers, but all my mother's brothersare my uncles.

5. The children of my father's brothers are my brothers and sisters, soalso are the children of my mother's sisters; but the children of myfather's sisters and those of my mother's brothers are my cousins.

6. I being male, the children of my male cousins are my nephews andnieces, but the children of my female cousins are my sons and daughters.[Note.- These relationships are reversed in the North American Indiansystem, and this is the only important point whereon that system differsfrom the Tamil.]

7. All the brothers of my grandfathers and those of my grandmothersare my grandfathers; all their sisters are my grandmothers.

8. There is one term for my elder and another for my younger brother;so also for my sisters, elder or younger. Hence there is no collective termby which I can indicate all my brothers, or all my sisters, unless I beeither the eldest or the youngest of the family.

It will be observed that this system merges the collateral line in the lineal in the third generation - thus, the son of my nephew is my grandson;but the Malayan system (of which the Hawaiian may be taken as thetype) allows of no divergence whatever from the lineal line. In that systemthere are no cousins, no nephews and nieces, no uncles and aunts.

Tabulated schedules, covering more than 600 pages, and giving thesystems of more than four fifths of the entire human family, have beenalready published by the Smithsonian Institution; and I am now requested by Mr. Lewis Morgan to work out the systems of Polynesia, Micronesia,Madagascar, and the Papuan islands. Inasmuch as results highly importantto ethnological science may be reasonably expected from these researches,I have no hesitation in asking for your help, even though no inducementcan be offered (nor, I am sure, can any be required) other than that whichthe work itself affords.

Last edit 11 months ago by ALourie

tip70-10-33-26 Howitt to Fison 25 September 1879



people it seems to me that you mightwell conduct the negociations; besidesyou are the senior partner in our pieceand possess a fluent, logical anda persuasive [underlined] pen. I will write bythis mail write to a connection ofmine Professor Boyd Dawkins whoknows all the Scientific people inLondon and who I half fancybelongs also to the Ethnological Societyand I will tell him the positionin which we now are. I think itvery likely that he may send my letteron and I will write it with a view to that course. When I hear from ElleryI will send you his letter. Meanwhile I think our course is to workthe Ethnological and the Smithsonianagainst each other. As to AntigoneI believe you have cracked the nut yourself.As my classics are honest to work outthe problem by following out the clue throughthe whole content I contented myselfwith glancing over the [?grange?] refusal toand a little of the content in a copywhich my classical friend hereborrowed. He considered your problemfor a couple of weeks and says you have solved itYours faithfully A W Howitt

Last edit 2 months ago by ALourie
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