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even by the virtuous ? Can it be stigmatizes them as criminal ; and if reasonably and soberly thought, that we look but a little way back and ask practical licentiousness will not im- what our fathers thought of the slavemensely increase when even they set trade, and of lotteries, we shall see how aside all restraint of law ? It avails valuable is the aid of law to sustain panot to reply, that “human nature will tional sentiment. So soon as marriage make a few blunders, and come right is free from legal control, divorce beat last." That topic was as true, as comes possible at the will of either party; valuable, and as much to the purpose, and if once illegal unions become prevain the reigns of Augustus and Nero, as lent and thereby respectable, numberless now; but it did not suffice to work off cases will soon occur, in a migratory the impurities of Rome. The urgent nation, in which no family influence can doubt is, through how many blunders, act against arbitrary divorce. With a through how much misery, through how great majority of the married, even much degradation and ruin will men those who have no high principles, dihave to pass, before the time called “ at vorce will not be desired. Fondness for last” comes. In Rome, it came only the common offspring, mere habituation, by foreign conquest, and by a total the inconvenience of losing a wife's porbreak-up of society. Those who thus tion, the difficulty of a new courtship, reason about “freedom,” shut their the chance of being rejected in it if the eyes to the moral influences and moral divorce have seemed arbitrary, will keep duties of the State; perhaps dogmati- most couples together. But if only one cally deny its moral duties, and here of a thousand married homes were brokare diametrically at variance both with en up every year by a causeless and unthe theory and with the practice alike justifiable divorce, it would be a formi. of every known civilized State and of dable addition to all our moral difficulevery English Parliament. Suppose for ties. And in two or three generations a moment that this theory of freedom the progress would be downhill; for the were acted on, even without the very facility of divorce would lead to greater mischievous addition of secrecy; and facility of experimental marriage. As that (the law remaining as it is) persons old Simo in Terence represents, there of the highest virtue declined to legalize can be no great harm if a young man, their marriages : what must be expected where it seems to be convenient, marry to follow ? It is worth while to trace a lady whom he does not love: the inevitable consequences. When persons of high goodness and Nempe incommoditas denique huc omnis redit,
Si eveniat (quod Di prohibeant!) discessio. purity live in conjugal union illegally, but faithfully, and display practically That is: “You need not be afraid to that they are a law to themselves, and take her. If you find you do not like need no restraint of law, moral honor is her, you will only bave to give her up." given to this state of freedom. Numbers Parents never make bad marriages for besides enter it, with less noble princi- their children now on such a computaples and lower self-control. Those who tion; it would be a pure addition to took up the new position with something existing evil. And the hundred divorces of the martyr spirit, krew that they of this year might become a thousand were a mark for aspersion, and had five years hence, because the stigma some aid in the high-strung tone which upon a wanton use of the power would conscious self-sacrifice gives to the defi- be weakened perpetually by the frequenant enthusiast. Those who follow, when cy of use. the public odium is past, have no such But consider more closely what the secondary bracing; and the majority of power of arbitrary divorce, unchecked men have not hitherto risen above law, even by the opinion of kinsfolk, means, but prevalently interpret duty from law. It means that a man shall be able to get It is notorious, that the mercantile class rid of one woman because he is more do not feel against various swindlings, attracted by another. Now, this tempnor the political class against briberies tation is the more subtle and dangerous, 16 other malpractices, any grave and expressly because it is not necessarily or Accordingt reprobation, until the law principally addressed to the sensual part of our nature. Especially if a man marry to feel that he is keeping a wife against when young, before his own character her will, and to be reproached with hinis fully developed, it is unlikely that the dering her spiritual improvement. That choice of his youth will be the partner the husband did consent, and that the whom he would have chosen in his man- court thereupon did without further inhood. He may have been unduly at- quiry sanction the divorce, is a public fact; tracted by a beauty which does not last, also, that the preacher made no difficulty or he may find his wife's mind to be about accepting the enthusiastic lady, incapable of moving on with his own. with her dowry and children. We have In the very proportion of his capacity, since heard, but from one informant versatility, and late expanding powers, only, that, after many years of union, the it may become impossible for one woman preacher in turn sought and gained to satisfy his mental desires. At present, divorce from his wife, and that she is such a case is more easily borne, because now gone back-into the bosom of her a married man is able to have close and first husband ! tender friendships with any number of An unlimited
of divorce neceswomen; in fact, the more numerous sarily draws after it the possibility of they are, the less danger there is of marrying with the premeditated intenjealousy. This is now one of the marked tion of terminating the union after a limprivileges of marriage; it gives to a ited time. This touches the point which man not only one wife, but many sis- of all is most cardinal. The sanctity of ters; and the mental attraction be- marriage is not necessarily invaded by tween the sexes is great and signal. its not being in the result a union for The advantage would be largely lost life; but unless, when the union is if he could divorce his wife at pleas- formed, it is intended and fully expected ure. Close friendships with other women to be a life-union, its sanctity receives a would no longer be honorable, or free fatal wound. Not to reprobate and defrom suspicion. A wife's jealousy would test such pretended marriages, is to jusalmost necessarily be incurred, and un- tify the sensualism of every libertine. happiness thence arise. Thus, the power Else, why may not a young student of arbitrary divorce would lessen the marry a girl of low birth for a few freedom of the married and the happi- years, knowing that he will be ashamed ness of the married state. Out of such of such a partner for a permanence; and unhappiness divorces would arise: and divorce her, as soon as ambition and the again, the more frequent divorce, the hope of a better match prompts? If more rife must jealousies become, and such conduct be not reprobated, will not the greater the slavery of marriage. the girl on her part be justified in extortThe evil, like a snow-ball, grows as it ing the utmost of money which she can, rolls on. Already a part of this mischief in order to support her possible children? shows itself in Prussia, from the too And if such a mode of getting a liveligreat facility of the divorce courts. A hood be respectable, while it is vastly single example will explain what things easier than the industry of maidens who are even now possible. A married lady, refuse to sell their persons, we shall not mother of several children, living in be far off from the state of the Lydians entire barmony with her husband, an and Etruscans, among whom every amiable easy gentleman, hears at church good-looking young woman, without an enthusiastic young preacher, and is reproach, earned a dowry for her more enraptured by his eloquence. On her permanent marriage by gratifying any return home, she tells her husband how number of successive lovers until the thoroughly the preacher's words have requisite sum was made up. No persons come to her heart; and that she is quite of high and pure mind can ever intend persuaded it would conduce to her spir- not to reprobate, not to detest, not to itual perfection to be married to him; express disgust, at “temporary unions,” and if she can get his consent, she hopes intended to be temporary from the that her husband will not oppose a di- first; but if unlimited divorce is to be vorce. What amount of urgency sufficed permitted, and is not to be resented, we to disgust the husband into agreement fose all right to reprove any union which is not a public fact. No man can like covers itself by the mere word “marriage.” For, though we may be clearly tention, a fervent desire, a full belief, convinced that it is intended to be tem- that the union is to be and shall be perporary, we have never a right to assert petual, is essential to any true and honit while the parties keep their own orable love, to any true and honorable counsel.
marriage. In order to uphold marriage Among the Persians, the principle of as a social institution, the power of di“temporary unions” has been organized vorce must not rest with the parties into religion, and the ceremonial is per- themselves, but with some judge, or some formed by the Mohammedan priests. Mer- court (perhaps of kinsfolk) presided over chants, who come from a distant city,— by a public officer; and rightly to presuppose to Ispahân,-often reside there scribe beforehand the grounds and con. for two or three months, while waiting ditions of divorce, is a critical duty for for goods. Finding it rather tedious, the legislator. In the opening of this they beguile the time by marrying a wife discussion, it was shown, that the necesfor a number of months specified in sity of deciding what rights over chilthe marriage contract. The process is dren, and what duties toward children, straightforward and business-like. The each parent bad, in itself necessitated merchant calls in the priest, and tells State inference in the matter of marwhat he wants. The priest examines his riage. We now add, that care for the book, and finds therein registered the public morality is, if not a more urgent, names of women who are willing, for a yet on the whole a far more important consideration, to enter into temporary and wide-reaching argument. It is needmarriage; and ascertains how many of less to occupy these pages by replying to them are disengaged. What further is that extreme theory, which forbids the done, we do not know, but, we believe, State to care for the public virtue. We he assembles them veiled, and lets the do not yet believe that its advocates merchant pick out one: however, it ends would themselves jastify the legalizing with his drawing out a regular marriage- of lotteries, betting-houses, and gamcertificate,* and pocketing his fee. An bling-tables. But it suffices to point out estimable Scotch military officer, who had the astonishing vigor, quickness, and unafor some years the charge of the Per- nimity, with which the late Lord Campsian arsenal at Tabreez, under the treaty bell's bill against impure pictures was of the East India Company with the king carried through both Houses ; although of Persia, assured the writer of these it authorized and commanded the officer lines that he had seen and read such to intrude forcibly into houses in search marriage contracts, and could testify as of them, in a manner quite un-English. eye-witness that a single day was not This shows how profound, how vehetoo short a duration of marriage to re- ment, how unanimous is the conviction ceive the priest's blessing and license! in the English Parliament, that corrupOf course those who first authorized this tion of this sort is a formidable evil, wonderful system, had no foresight of which must be summarily put down, even the monstrosity into which it would run. by despotic measures, and that the theThey must have believed that they would ory which denies to the State the rigbt lessen existing evil, and act against the and duty of caring for the public virtue loathsome system of prostitution. But is without any support whatever in the when once the fatal idea is admitted that legislature. a union which is intended to last some Truly Parliament is painfully sensible time shorter than life is marriage at all, of the evil of a criminal class of children and deserves honorable recognition ; in- cast on the world either without ostenstead of curing the evil which exists, it sible parents or with parents who can does but degrade and pollute the minis- only corrupt them; and is fully aware ters of the new system.
that loose marriages, and frequent diIt is upon this point that a stand must
vorces, would rapidly multiply this danfirmly be made, or we are swamped in gerous population. When the legislathe pool of dissoluteness. A sincere in- ture becomes more alive to its duty, it
will study more deeply the causes of the Nearly thus the proceeding is described by deplorable evil which exists. It does Morier in Hajji Baba in Ispahan.
not really need peculiar sharpness of sight to understand the causes; only, an lic court of law. Hence, upon Christian unwillingness to adopt the cure is apt to grounds, it has no place whatever in this blind men's eyes. But such a doctrine argument. as free love or unlimited right of divorce But if there are Christians who have would leave our most disgusting evils some mental incapacity to accept an inas they are, and heap upon us a vast new terpretation which is not habitual; if, load of evil.
resolutely sticking to the traditional view Thus far our argument has been on of this passage, they insist on imposing the whole Conservative. It has seemed that view upon everybody; it is proper necessary to show that the theory which to remind 'them of the consequences would throw off the State is a baneful reasonably to be expected, unless indeed delusion. But now, we must turn earn- they are happily outvoted. They are estly to remind Conservatives how pow- aware that Queen Victoria's subjects are erless the State becomes from the day not all Christians. Many are Jews; that any considerable portion of the peo- many are Mohammedans, very many ple fanatically defy and refuse its mar- are Hindoos, some are Chinese, not to riage laws; and that the impotence speak of mere barbarians: moreover an of the State becomes worst, precisely increasing fraction of Englishmen revere against that combination which now is Christianity only so far as they find it to be feared ;-a combination of the old to be moral and reasonable; and this enemy, profligate vice, with the new en- class of Englishmen can but be driven emy who confronts us in the near future, into a refusal to coöperate with the law, virtuously intended fanaticism. From if a religion which they disown is allowed this point, therefore, our argument is in to make the law unjust. Parliament has favor of judicious Reform, as alone truly long conceded to Jews freedom for their Conservative. In so far as the existing own marriages: neither the Dissenters law is unjust, it must be promptly chang- of the United Kingdom, nor the tens of ed, 1. as to divorce, 2. as to the extrav- thousands who profess no allegiance to agant rights given to husbands.
Christianity, will endure to have their As to divorce, it is well to deal at marriages controlled by High Church once, and frankly, with “the religious Traditionalism. In so critical a domestic argument,” as it is called. It rests upon interest the law must be based on broad one solitary passage in the gospels, which arguments of human morality, not on is quite misinterpreted; and when that the sectarian interpretation of a text. In one passage is rightly understood, it be- no other way can the State avert that comes clear that no word is found in the total neglect of its marriage ceremony, Christian Scriptures prejudging the ques- which would be a great national calamtion of divorce. As we read in St. Mat- ity. Germany and America have led thew (xix. 3) the Pharisees asked Jesus, the way in remodelling the law, and "Is it lawful for a man to pat away his England will not long endure the present wife for every cause?” which“Moses in state of things, if it be defended only by the law” distinctly allowed. Observe; Ecclesiasticism. the question is not, under what circum- Assuming then that divorce, not at a stances a court of law may pronounce a husband's will, but by the decision of divorce: that topic is not even touched: an unbiassed and competent court, is a but whether a husband may under all question clearly open; it is impossible circumstances use the liberty given him to avoid pronouncing the English law to by Moses, of taking the decision into his be still very unjust in its limitations, own hand. The decision reported is: although it has been sensibly relaxed of "Certainly not; but for one grave offence late. It is evident from the course of only.” Now, that reply in no way touch- legislation, both in Protestant Germany es this argument; for, in common with and in the United States, that so soon as all Christendom, we refuse to the hus- men come to the question with open band jurisdiction even in that extreme eyes, they find many more causes of case. The reply of Jesus did but put a divorce than we have ever admitted : moral limitation on the Jeroish husband's namely, not only adultery and cruelty, legal power. It in no respect dealt with keeping a wife in terror of her life, or the general question of divorce by a pub- trying to poison a husband; but any
other gross conduct which ruins the such severity are very powerful, and moral purposes of marriage. Habitual seem to be unanswerable. First, in drunkenness is among us one of the most Protestants who insist that-a nun's vows urgent evils, which ought to be a ground ought not to be binding when she repents of divorce. The drunkard not only can- of them and sees them to have been unnot protect his wife, cannot duly feed, wise, it is monstrous to press the mere clothe, and care for his family, but keeps fact of the “marriage vow as an inher in constant misery and frequent superable difficulty: more especially uncertainty of life. Wife-beating is a when it has been taken under parental daily offence, wife-murder at least a pressure, and at a minor age. Indeed, weekly crime, as a direct result of while marriages of minors (especially drunkenness. Divorce in an extreme of women in minority) are not forbidden, case might be enforced even without a the mere fact of having been a minor is wife's petition, for the sake of children, almost enough to give a woman a right as well as wife. In some States of the to cancel the vow. The difference of a American Union the drunkard is further woman's knowledge and prudence at 18 treated as an insane man; and with and at 21 is generally very great. Next, much reason. Next, a man who is con- when a married couple are decidedly victed of crime and punished by a long unhappy, separation (so far as the law and distant imprisonment ought ipso is concerned) is always possible for them; facto to forfeit all rights to both wife but separation is not only a poor conand children, to none of whom he can per- solation and insufficient substitute for form his duties. It is cruel in the ex- divorce, but even peculiarly lays them treme to a woman to take away her open to dangerous sympathy. And if husband for seven or fourteen years, the law prescribe, that while innocent suspend his power like a sword over her they may not be divorced, but when head, and then allow him to come back guilty they may, it gives a frightful after long estrangement, probably de- premium on guilt; a guilt to which the praved by intimate association with conscience may reconcile itself, by the worse criminals; to usurp her property plea that the law will have it so. This and her person, and claim the children argument urgently demands a reply. as his own. A third obvious case of Thirdly, although there is danger in rightful divorce is that of obstinate de- allowing such divorces, it is not a danger sertion. But as no dogmatism is here which admits of no precaution. Hungary, intended, further details are needless: though a Catholic country, yet, being it suffices to insist, that the whole ques- peculiarly free from bigotry, bas here intion needs to be freely thrown open to novated boldly, and perhaps very sagadiscussion, as it is in other Protestant ciously. If a young couple are unhappy, countries, and such relaxations of the and desire to be divorced, they address law introduced, as impartial reason, un- a joint petition to the court; or one biassed by ecclesiasticism, may suggest. alone perhaps can thus petition. The So long as divorce is confined to those court appoints two or more mediators, cases in which it leaves a deep moral generally from the kinsfolk, to hear the stigma on one or other of the married complaints, to give advice, and try to persons, the difficulty of the topic is reconcile them. Reconciliation is often what it is in itself; but it is not aggra- thus effected. But if failure be reported, vated by the danger of opening a door the court replies, that they must repeat to licentiousness. This danger becomes the application for divorce after three urgent, if divorce be granted under cir- years, and then it shall be granted. If cumstances which leave no stain on the quarrel is very severe, they probably either party, and therefore put no moral separate, and obtain the divorce at the difficulty in the way of a reputable second expiration of the period. The delay inmarriage: for any unwise laxity may (as fallibly prevents any from seeking divorce we have seen in Prussia) lead to very in order to take a more acceptable partlicentious caprice. On first considera- ner; for no one can hope that another tion it may seem that when neither party will wait three years for such a revercan be deeply stigmatized, divorce ought sion. It may even seem that two years to be impossible; yet the reasons against would suffice. When the aversion is so