consists in being detected, and that a successful thief is admired rather than disapproved of.


It is said of the Navahos that “the time is evidently not long gone by when with them, as among the Spartans, adroit theft was deemed honourable.” 1 Among the Californian Yuki

thieving is a virtue . provided the thief is sly enough not to get caught.”2 The Ahts“ have a tendency to sympathise with some forms of theft, in which dexterity is required.” 3 Among the Thlinkets “theft does not seem to be considered a disgrace ; the detected thief is at most ashamed of his want of skill.” 4 The Chukchi “have but a bad opinion of a young girl who has never acquitted herself cleverly in some theft; and without such testimony of her dexterity and address she will scarcely find a husband.” 5 In Mongolia “known thieves are treated as respectable members of society. As long as they manage well and are successful, little or no odium seems to attach to them ; and it is no uncommon thing to hear them spoken of in terms of high praise. Success seems to be regarded as a kind of palliation of their crimes.” 6 Among the Kukis, according to early notices, the accomplishment most esteemed was dexterity in thieving, whilst the most contemptible person was a thief caught in the act. The Persians say that “it is no shame to steal, only to be found out.” 8 The same view seems to be held by the Motu tribe of New Guinea, the natives of Tana (New Hebrides),10 the Maoris, 11 and several African peoples.12 In Fiji “success, without discovery, is deemed quite enough to make thieving virtuous, and a participation in the ill-gotten gain honourable.” 13 Among the Matabele


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Bengal, p. 45.
8 Polak, Persien, ii. 81.

Stone, A few months in New
Guinea, p. 95.
10 Brenchley, op. cit. p. 208.
11 Shortland, Traditions and Super-
stitions of the New Zealanders, p.
224. Waitz-Gerland, Anthropologie der
Naturvölker, vi. 224. Dieffenbach,
Travels in New Zealand, ii. in.
12 Zoller, Forschungsreisen in der
deutschen Colonie Kamerun, ii. 64
(Dualla). Wilson and Felkin, op. cit.
i. 224 (Waganda). Leslie, op. cit. p.
256 (Amatongas).

1s Williams and Calvert, op. cit. p. 110.

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“the thief is not despised because he has stolen, but because he has allowed himself to be caught, and if his crime remains undetected he is admired by all.” 1 Among the aborigines of Palma, in the Canary Islands, he was esteemed the cleverest fellow who could steal with such address as not to be discovered." 2

The moral valuation of theft varies according to the social position of the thief and of the person robbed. Among the Marea a nobleman who commits theft is only obliged to restore the appropriated article ; but if a commoner steals from another commoner, the whole of his property may be confiscated by the latter's master, and if he steals from a nobleman he becomes the nobleman's serf.3 Among the Kafirs of the Hindu-Kush the penalty for theft is theoretically a fine of seven or eight times the value of the thing stolen ; “ but such a punishment in ordinary cases would only be inflicted on a man of inferior mark, unless it were accompanied by circumstances which aggravated the original offence.” 4

In Rome, according to an old law, a freeman caught in the act of thieving was scourged and delivered over to the party aggrieved, whereas a slave in similar circumstances was scourged and then hurled from the Tarpeian rock ;' and according to an enactment of Hadrian, the punishment for stealing an ox or horse from the pastures or from a stable was only relegation if the offender was a person of rank, though ordinary persons might have to suffer death for the same offence. In ancient India, on the other hand, the punishment increased with the rank of the criminal. According to the Laws of Manu,“ in a case of theft the guilt of a Sûdra shall be eightfold, that of a Vaisya sixteenfold, that of a Kshatriya two-and-thirtyfold, that of a Brâhniana sixty-fourfold, or quite a hundredfold, or even twice four-and-sixtyfold; each of them knowing the nature

! Decle, Three Years in Savage 4 Scott Robertson, Káfirs of the Africa, p. 165.

Hindu-Kush, p. 440. ? de Abreu, op. cit. p. 138.

5 Mommsen, Römisches Strafrecht, Munzinger, Ostafrikanische Studick, p. 243 sq.

6 Digesta, xlvii. 14. 1. pr., 3.



P. 751.



of the offence." 1 In other cases, again, the degree of guilt is determined by the station of the person robbed. Among the Gaika tribe of the Kafirs, for instance, the fine by which a theft is punished “is fixed according to the rank of the person against whom the offence is committed, confiscation of property being the general punishment imposed for offences against chiefs." Among many other peoples theft or robbery committed on the property of a chief or king is treated with exceptional severity.' Sometimes difference in religion affects the criminality of the thief. According to modern Buddhism, “ to take that which belongs to a sceptic is an inferior crime, and the guilt rises in magnitude in proportion to the merit of the individual upon whom the theft is perpetrated. To take that which belongs to the associated priesthood, or to a supreme Buddha, is the highest crime." But the com

; monest and most important personal distinction influencing the moral valuation of theft and robbery is that between a tribesman or fellow-countryman and a stranger.

Among uncivilised races intra-tribal theft is carefully distinguished from extra-tribal theft. Whilst the former is forbidder, the latter is commonly allowed, and robbery committed on a stranger is an object of praise.


The Tehuelches of Patagonia, “although honest enough as regards each other, will, nevertheless, not scruple to steal from any one not belonging to their party." ?

The Abipones, who never took anything from their own countrymen, “used to rob and murder the Spaniards whilst they thought them their enemies." 8 Among the Mbayas the law, Thou shalt not steal, “ applies only to tribesmen and

1 Laws of Manil, viii. 337 sq.

2 Crawfuril, op. cit. iii. 115 (Java. nese). Desoignies, in Steinmetz, Rechtsverhältnisse, p. 281 (Msalala). Maclean, Compendium of kafir Laws and Customs, p. 143.

3 Brownlee, in Maclean, op. cit. p.

Decle, Three Years in Savage Africa, p. 73. Pust, Afrikanische Jurisprudena, ii. 91. Laws of Ethelbirht, 4, 9 (Anglo-Saxons).

5 Tardy, Manual of Budhism, p. 483.

Cf. Tylor, Primitive Society,' in
Contemporary Review, xxi. 715 sq. ;
Anthropology, p. 413 sq.

7 Musters, op. cit. p. 195.
8 Dobrizhoffer, op. cit. ii. 148.

I 12.

4 Ellis, Tour through Hawaii, p. 429 sq. Ellis, Eive-speaking Peoples of the Slave Coast, p. 225 (Dahomans).





allies, not to strangers and enemies.” 1 The high standard of honesty which prevailed among the North American Indians did not refer to foreigners, especially white men, whom they thought it no shame to rob or cheat.” “A theft from an individual of another band,” says Colonel Dodge, “is no crime. A theft from one of the same band is the greatest of all crimes.” 3 Among the Californian Indians, for instance, who are proverbially honest in their own neighbourhood," a stranger in the gates who seems to be friendless may lose the very blankets off him in the night.” 4 Among the Ahts thieving®“ is a common vice where the property of other tribes, or white men, is concerned.” 5 Of the Dacotahs we read that, though the men think it undignified for them to steal even from white people, “they send their wives thus unlawfully to procure what they want. Of the Greenlanders the old missionary Egede writes :-“If they can lay hands upon any thing belonging to us foreigners, they make no great scruple of conscience about it. But, as we now have lived some time in the country amongst them, and are look'd upon as true inhabitants of the land, they at last have forborne to molest us any more that way.”? Another early authority states, “ If they can purloin or even forcibly seize the property of a foreigner, it is a feather in their cap ” ;8 and, according to Dr. Nansen, it is still held by the Greenlanders “ to be far less objectionable to rob Europeans than their own fellow-countrymen.”9 Many travellers have complained of the pilfering tendencies of Eskimo tribes with whom they have come into contact.10 Richardson believes that, in the opinion of an Eskimo, “ to steal boldly and adroitly from a stranger is an act of heroism.” 11

Of the Eskimo about Behring Strait Mr. Nelson writes :-“Stealing from people of the same village or tribe is regarded as wrong. . . . To steal from a stranger or from people of another tribe is not considered wrong so long as it does not bring trouble on the community.” 12 1 Tylor, in Contemporary Review, land, ii. 335 sq. Cf. Idem, Eskimo xxi. 716.

Life, p. 159 sq. ? Ibid. p. 716.

10 Murdoch, "Ethnological Results 3 Dodge, op. cit. p. 79.

of the Point Barrow Expedition,' in · Powers, "Tribes of California, p. Ann. Rep. Bur. Ethn. ix. 41. See. 410 sq.

mann, Voyage of Herald," ii. 65; Sproat, op. cil. p. 159. Cf. Mache, Armstrong, Discovery of the NorthVancouver Island and British Columbia, West Passage, p. 196 (Western Es. P. 468.


kimo). • Eastman, Dacotah, p. xvii.

11 Richardson, Arctic Searching Ex· Egede, op. cit. p. 124 sq.

peditivn, i. 352. * Cranz, op. cit. i. 175. See also 12 Nelson, in Ann. Rep. Bur. Ethn. Dalager, op. cit. p. 69.

Nansen, First Crossing of Green

xviii. 293.


The Chukchi 1 and Koriaks 2 consider theft reputable or glorious if committed on a stranger, though criminal if committed in their own communities. The hill people of the Central Provinces of India, whilst observant of the rights of property among themselves, do not scruple to plunder those to whom they are under no obligation of fidelity:3 The Bataks of Sumatra, who hardly ever steal among themselves, are expert at pilfering from strangers when not restrained by the laws of hospitality, and think it no moral offence to do so. Other tribes in the Malay Archipelago likewise hold it allowable to plunder the same stranger or traveller who, when forlorn and destitute, would find a hospitable reception among them. “ The strict honesty,” says Mr. Melville, “ which the inhabitants of nearly all the Polynesian Islands manisest towards each other, is in striking contrast with the thieving propensities some of them evince in their intercourse with foreigners. It would almost seem that, according to their peculiar code of morals, the pilfering of a hatchet or a wrought nail from a European is looked upon as a praiseworthy action. Or rather, it may be presumed, that bearing in mind the wholesale forays made upon them by their nautical visitors, they consider the property of the latter as a fair object of reprisal.” 6 In Fiji theft is regarded as no offence at all when practised on a foreigner. The Savage Islanders consider theft from a tribesman a vice, but theft from a member of another tribe a virtue. Of the Sandwich Islanders, again, we are told that they stole from rich strangers on board well loaded ships, whereas Europeans settled among them left their doors and shops unlocked without apprehension. Speaking of the honesty of the Herbert River natives, Northern Queensland, Mr. Lumholtz adds :—“It is, of course, solely among members of the same tribe that there is so great a difference between mine and thine ; strange tribes look upon each other as wild beasts." 10 The aborigines of West Australia “ would not consider the act of pillaging base when practised on another people, or carried on beyond the limits of their own tribe.”

Among the For tribe of Central Africa “it is not considered 1 Georgi, op. cit. iii. 183.

(Micronesians). 2 Ibid. ii. 170.

Krasheninnikoff, 7 Williams and Calvert, op. cit. p. op. cit. p. 232. 3 Hislop, op. cit. p. I.

8 Thomson, Savage Island, p. 94. 4 Marsden, op. cit. p. 389.

von Kotzebue, op. cit. iii. 255. 6 Crawfurd, op. cit. i. 72.

10 Lumholtz, Among Cannibals, p. 6 Melville,· Typee, p. 295, n. I.

148. also Williams, Alissionary Enterprises, 11 Chauncy, in Brough Smyth, op. cit. P. 530 (Samoans); Hale, op. cit. p. 73

" 11




ii. 278 s.

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