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Darwin Correspondence Project

To T. H. Farrer   2 [March 1871]1

6. Q. Anne St

Thursday 2d

My dear Farrer

Many thanks for your note. The parallelism is new to me & certainly seems to hold good.2 I was aware of the view as propounded by Maine, but never thought of its application or extension to morals.—3 With savages at the present day, as far as what may be called their real property is concerned the communal view I believe generally holds good, but I cannot avoid thinking that personal property, such as flint tools &c, must from the earliest period have strictly belonged to the individual, as much as a bone to a dog or a nest to a bird—

We are off to the quietude of Down from the tremendous uproar of this great place in the course of a few minutes.—4

Yours very sincerely | Ch Darwin


The month and year are established by the relationship between this letter and the letter from T. H. Farrer, 1 March 1871.
In his letter of 1 March 1871, Farrer drew a parallel between Henry James Sumner Maine’s view that the first notions of property related to communal rather than individual property, and CD’s view that the social instinct arose earlier than the selfish virtues (see Maine 1861 and Descent 1: 85).
CD was in London from 23 February to 2 March 1871 (see ‘Journal’ (Appendix II)).


Descent: The descent of man, and selection in relation to sex. By Charles Darwin. 2 vols. London: John Murray. 1871.

Maine, Henry James Sumner. 1861. Ancient law: its connection with the early history of society, and its relation to modern ideas. London: John Murray.


Was aware of Maine’s view but never thought of its extension to morals. Cannot avoid thinking that personal property like flint tools must have "strictly belonged to individuals as much as a bone to a dog".

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Thomas Henry Farrer, 1st baronet and 1st Baron Farrer
Sent from
London, Queen Anne St, 6
Source of text
Linnean Society of London (LS Ms 299/14a)
Physical description
ALS 2pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 7530,” accessed on 25 July 2024,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 19