Robert Green Ingersoll
By Cardinal Gibbons, Bishop Henry C. Potter, and Colonel Robert G. Ingersoll.
The attention of the public has been particularly directed of late to the abuses of divorce, and to the facilities afforded by the complexities of American law, and by the looseness of its administration, for the disruption of family ties, Therefore the North American Review has opened its pages for the thorough discussion of the subject in its moral, social, and religious aspects, and some of the moat eminent leaders of modern thought have contributed their opinions. The Rev. S. W. Dike, LL.B., who is a specialist on the subject of divorce, has prepared some statistics touching the matter, and, with the assistance of Bishop Potter, the four following questions have been formulated as a basis for the discussion:
1. Do you believe in the principle of divorce under any circumstances?
2. Ought divorced people to be allowed to marry under any circumstances?
3. What is the effect of divorce on the integrity of the family?
4. Does the absolute prohibition of divorce where it exists contribute to the moral purity of society?
Editor North American Review.
INTRODUCTION by the Rev. S.W. Dike, LL.D.
I am to introduce this discussion with some facts and make a few suggestions upon them. In the dozen years of my work at this problem I have steadily insisted upon a broad basis of fact as the only foundation of sound opinion. We now have a great statistical advance in the report of the Department of labor, A few of these statistics will serve the present purpose.
There were in the United States 9,937 divorces reported for the year 1867 and 25,535 for 1886 or a total 328,716 in the twenty years. This increase is more than twice as great as the population, and has been remarkably uniform throughout the period. With the exception of New York, perhaps Delaware, and the three or four States where special legislative reforms have been secured, the increase covers the country and has been more than twice the gain in population. The South apparently left the movement later than the North and West, but its greater rapidity there will apparently soon obliterate most existing differences. The movement is well- nigh as universal in Europe as here. Thirteen European countries, including Canada, had 6,540 divorces in 1876 and 10,909 in 1886 — an increase of 67 per cent. In the same period the increase with us was 72.5 per cent. But the ratios of divorce to population are here generally three or four times greater than in Europe. The ratios to marriage in the United States are sometimes as high as 1 to 10, 1 to 9, or even a little more for single years. In heathen Japan for three years they were more than 1 to 3. But divorce there is almost wholly left to the regulation of the family, and practically optional with the parties. It is a retransferrence of the wife by a simple writing to her own family.
1. The increase of divorce is one of several evils affecting the family. Among these are hasty or ill-considered marriages, the decline of marriage and the decrease of children, — too generally among classes pecuniarily best able to maintain domestic life, — the probable increase in some directions of marital infidelity and sexual vice, and last, but not least, a tendency to reduce the family to a minimum of force in the life of society. All these evils should be studied and treated in their relations to each other. Carefully-conducted investigations alone can establish these latter statements beyond dispute, although there can be little doubt of their general correctness as here carefully made. And the conclusion is forced upon us that the toleration of the increase of divorce, touching as it does the vital bond of the family, is so far forth a confession of our western civilization that it despairs of all remedies for ills of the family, and is becoming willing, in great degree, to look away from all true remedies to a dissolution of the family by the courts in all serious cases. If this were our settled purpose, it would look like giving up the idea of producing and protecting a family increasingly capable of enduring to the end of its natural existence. If the drift of things on this subject during the present century may be taken as prophetic, our civilization moves in an opposite direction in its treatment of the family from its course with the individual.
2. Divorce, including these other evils related to the family, is preeminently a social problem. It should therefore be reached by all the forces of our great social institutions — religious, educational, industrial, and political. Each of these should be brought to bear on it proportionately and in cooperation with the others. But I can here take up only one or two lines for further suggestion.
3. The causes of divorces, like those of most social evils, are often many and intricate. The statistics for this country, when the forty-three various statutory causes are reduced to a few classes, show that 20 per cent. of the divorces were based on adultery, 16 on cruelty, 38 were granted for desertion, 4 for drunkenness, less than 3 for neglect to provide, and so on. But these tell very little, except that it is easier or more congenial to use one or another of the statutory causes, just as the old “omnibus clause,” which gave general discretion to the courts in Connecticut, and still more in some other States, was made to cover many cases. A special study of forty-five counties in twelve States, however, shows that drunkenness was a direct or indirect cause in 20.1 per cent. of 29,665 cases. That is, it could be found either alone or in conjunction with others, directly or indirectly, in one-fifth of the cases.
4. Laws and their administration affect divorce. New York grants absolute divorce for only one cause, and New Jersey for two. Yet New York has many more divorces in proportion to population, due largely to a looser system of administration. In seventy counties of twelve States 68 per cent. of the applications are granted. The enactment of a more stringent law is immediately followed by a decrease of divorces, from which there is a tendency to recover. Personally, I think stricter methods of administration, restrictions upon remarriage, proper delays in hearing suits, and some penal inflictions for cruelty, desertion, neglect of support, as well as for adultery, would greatly reduce divorces, even without removing a single statutory cause. There would be fewer unhappy families, not more. For people would then look to real remedies instead of confessing the hopelessness of remedy by appeals to the courts. A multitude of petty ills and many utterly wicked frauds and other abuses would disappear. “Your present methods,” said a Nova Scotian to a man from Maine a few years ago, “are simply ways of multiplying and magnifying domestic ills.” There is much force in this. But let us put reform of marriage laws along with these measures.
5, The evils of conflicting and diverse marriage and divorce laws are doing immense harm. The mischief through which innocent patties are defrauded, children rendered illegitimate, inheritance made uncertain, and actual imprisonments for bigamy grow out of divorce and remarriage, are well known to most. Uniformity through a national law or by conventions of the States has been strongly urged for many years. Uniformity is needed. But for one, I have long discouraged too early action, because the problem is too difficult, the consequences too serious, and the elements of it still too far out of our reach for any really wise action at present, The government report grew immediately out of this conviction. It will, I think, abundantly justify the caution. For it shows that uniformity could affect at the utmost only a small percentage of the total divorces in the United States. Only 19.9 per cent. of all the divorced who married in this country obtained their divorces in a different State from the one in which their marriage had taken place, in all these twenty years, 80.1 per cent. having been divorced in the State where married. Now, marriage on the average lasts 9.17 years before divorce occurs, which probably is nearly two-fifths the length of a married life before its dissolution by death, From this 19.9 per cent. there must, therefore, be subtracted the large migration of married couples for legitimate purposes, in order to get any fair figure to express the migration for divorce. But the movement of the native population away from the State of birth is 22 or 23 per cent. This, however, includes all ages. For all who believe that divorce itself is generally a great evil, the conclusion is apparently inevitable that the question of uniformity, serious as it is, is a very small part of the great legal problem demanding solution at our hands. This general problem, aside from its graver features in the more immediate sphere of sociology and religion, must evidently tax our publicist:s and statesmen severely. The old temptation to meet special evils by general legislation besets us on this subject. I think comparative and historical study of the law of the family, (the Familienrecht of the Germans), especially if the movement of European law be seen, points toward the need of a pretty comprehensive and thorough examination of our specific legal problem of divorce and marriage law in this fuller light, before much legislation is undertaken.
SAMUEL W. DIKE.
Reply of Cardinal Gibbons.
However much men may differ in their views of the nature and attributes of the matrimonial contract, and in their concept of the rights and obligations of the marriage state, no one will deny that these are grave questions; since upon marriage rests the family, and upon the family rest society, civilization, and the highest interests of religion and the state. Yet, strange to say, divorce, the deadly enemy of marriage, stalks abroad to-day bold and unblushing, a monster licensed by the laws of Christian states to break hearts, wreck homes and ruin souls. And passing strange is it, too, that so many, wise and far-seeing in less weighty concerns, do not appear to see in the ever-growing power of divorce a menace not only to the sacredness of the marriage institution, but even to the fair social fabric reared upon matrimony as its corner-stone.
God instituted in Paradise the marriage state and sanctified it. He established its law of unity and declared its indissolubility. By divine authority Adam spoke when of his wife he said: “This now is bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called woman, because she was taken out of man. Wherefore a man shall leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they shall be two in one flesh.” (Gen., ii.,23) But like other things on earth, marriage suffered in the fall; and little by little polygamy and divorce began to assert themselves against the law of matrimonial unity and indissolubility. Yet the ideal of the marriage institution never faded away. It survived, not only among the chosen people, but even among the nations of heathendom, disfigured much, ’tis true, but with its ancient beauty never wholly destroyed.
When, in the fullness of time, Christ came to restore the things that were perishing, he reasserted in clear and unequivocal terms the sanctity, unity, and indissolubility of marriage. Nay, more. He gave to this state added holiness and a dignity higher far than it had “from the beginning.” He made marriage a sacrament, made it the type of his own never-ending union with his one spotless spouse, the church. St. Paul, writing to the Ephesians, says: “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ also loved the church, and delivered himself up for it, that he might sanctify it, cleansing it by the laver of water in the word of life, that he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle, or any such thing, but that it should be holy and without blemish. So also ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. . . . For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife, and they shall be two in one flesh.” (Ephes., v., 25-31)
In defence of Christian marriage, the church was compelled from the earliest days of her existence to do frequent and stern battle. But cultured pagan, and rough barbarian, and haughty Christian lord were met and conquered. Men were taught to master passion, and Christian marriage, with all its rights secured and reverenced, became a ruling power in the world.
The Council of Trent, called, in the throes of the mighty moral upheaval of the sixteenth century, to deal with the new state of things, again proclaimed to a believing and an unbelieving world the Catholic doctrine of the holiness, unity, and indissolubility of marriage, and the unlawfulness of divorce. The council declared no new dogmas: it simply reaffirmed the common teaching of the church for centuries. But some of the most hallowed attributes of marriage seemed to be objects of peculiar detestation to the new teachers, and their abolition was soon demanded. “The leaders in the changes of matrimonial law,” writes Professor Woolsey, “were the Protestant reformers themselves, and that almost from the beginning of the movement. . . . The reformers, when they discarded the sacramental view of marriage and the celibacy of the clergy, had to make out a new doctrine of marriage and of divorce.” (Divorce and Divorce Legislation,” by Theodore D. Woolsey, 2d Ed., p. 126.) The “new doctrine of marriage and of divorce,” pleasing as it was to the sensual man, was speedily learned and as speedily put in practice. The sacredness with which Christian marriage had been hedged around began to be more and more openly trespassed upon, and restive shoulders wearied more and more quickly of the marriage yoke when divorce promised freedom for newer joys.
To our own time the logical consequences of the “new doctrine” have come. To-day “abyss calls upon abyss,” change calls for change, laxity calls for license. Divorce is now a recognized presence in high life and low; and polygamy, the first-born of divorce, sits shameless in palace and in hovel. Yet the teacher that learned not to speak the words of truth in bygone ages is not silent now. In no uncertain tones, the church proclaims to the world to-day the unchangeable law of the strict unity and absolute indissolubility of valid and consummated Christian marriage.
To the question then, “Can divorce from the bond of marriage ever be allowed? ” the Catholic can only answer NO. And for this No, his first and last and best reason can be but this: “Thus saith the Lord.”
As time goes on the wisdom of the church in absolutely forbidding divorce from the marriage bond grows more and more plain even to the many who deny to this prohibition a divine and authoritative sanction. And nowhere is this more true than in our own country, Yet our experience of the evils of divorce is but the expedience of every people that has cherished this monster.
Let us take but a hasty view of the consequences of divorce in ancient times. Turn only to pagan Greece and Rome, two peoples that practiced divorce most extensively. In both we find divorce weakening their primitive virtue and making their latter corruption more corrupt. Among the Greeks morality declined as material civilization advanced, Divorce grew easy and common, and purity and peace were banished from the family circle. Among the Romans divorce was not common until the latter days of the Republic. Then the flood-gates of immorality were opened, and, with divorce made easy, came rushing in corruption of morals among both sexes and in every walk of life. “Passion, interest, or caprice,” Gibbon, the historian, tells us, “suggested daily motives for the dissolution of marriage; a word, a sign, a message, a letter, the mandate of a freedman, declared the separation; the most tender of human connections was degraded to a transient society of profit or pleasure. ” (“Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire,” Milman’s Ed. Vol. III., p. 236.) Each succeeding generation witnessed moral corruption more general, moral degradation more profound; men and women were no longer ashamed of licentiousness; until at length the nation that became mighty because built on a pure family fell when its corner-stone crumbled away in rottenness.
Heedless of the lessons taught by history, modern nations, too, have made trial of divorce. In Europe, wherever the new gospel of marriage and divorce has had notable influence, divorce has been legalized; and in due proportion to the extent of that influence reasons for divorce have been multiplied, the bond of marriage more and more recklessly broken, and the obligations of that sacred state more and more shamelessly disregarded. In our own country the divorce evil has grown more rapidly than our growth and strengthened more rapidly than our strength. Mr. Carroll B. Wright, in a special report on the statistics of marriage and divorce made to Congress in February, 1889, places the number of divorces in the United States in 1867 at 9,937, and the number in 1886 at 25,535. These figures show an increase of the divorce evil much out of proportion to our increase in population. The knowledge that divorces can easily be procured encourages hasty marriages and equally hasty preparations. Legislators and judges in some States are encouraging inventive genius in the art of finding new causes for divorce. Frequently the most trivial and even ridiculous pretexts are recognized as sufficient for the rupture of the marriage bond; and in some States divorce can be obtained “without publicity,” and even without the knowledge of the defendant — in such cases generally an innocent wife. Crime has sometimes been committed for the very purpose of bringing about a divorce, and cases are not rare in which plots have been laid to blacken the reputation of a virtuous spouse in order to obtain legal freedom for new nuptials. Sometimes, too, there is a collusion between the married parties to obtain divorce. One of them trumps up charges; the other does not oppose the suit; and judgment is entered for the plaintiff. Every daily newspaper tells us of divorces applied for or granted, and the public sense of decency is constantly being shocked by the disgusting recital of divorce-court scandals.
We are filled with righteous indignation at Mormonism; we brand it as a national disgrace, and justly demand its suppression. Why? Because, forsooth, the Mormons are polygamists. Do we forget that there are two species of polygamy — simultaneous and successive? Mormons practice without legal recognition the first species; while among us the second species is indulged in, and with the sanction of law, by thousands in whose nostrils Mormonism is a stench and an abomination. The Christian press and pulpit of the land denounce the Mormons as “an adulterous generation,” but too often deal very tenderly with Christian polygamists. Why? Is Christian polygamy less odious in the eyes of God than Mormon polygamy? Among us, ’tis true, the one is looked upon as more respectable than the other. Yet we know that the Mormons as a class, care for their wives and children; while Christian polygamists but too often leave wretched wives to starve, slave, or sin, and leave miserable children a public charge. “O divorced and much-married Christian,” says the polygamous dweller by Salt Lake, “pluck first the beam from thy own eye, and then shalt thou see to pluck the mote from the eye of thy much-married, but undivorced, Mormon brother.”
It follows logically from the Catholic doctrine of the unity and indissolubility of marriage, and the consequent prohibition of divorce from the marital bond, that no one, even though divorced a vinculo by the civil power, can be allowed by the church to take another consort during the lifetime of the true wife or husband, and such connection the church can but hold as sinful. It is written: “Whosoever shall put away his wife and marry another committeth adultery against her. And if the wife shall put away her husband, and be married to another, she committeth adultery.” (Mark, x., II, 12.) Of course, I am well aware that upon the words of our Savior as found in St. Matthew, Chap. xix., 9, many base the right of divorce from the marriage bond for adultery, with permission to remarry. But, as is well known, the Catholic Church, upon the concurrent testimony of the Evangelists Mark (Mark, x., 11, 12.) and Luke,(Luke, xvi., 18.) and upon the teaching of St. Paul, (I. Cor., vii., 10, 11.) interprets our Lord’s words quoted by St. Matthew as simply permitting, on account of adultery, divorce from bed and board, with no right to either party to marry another.
But even if divorce a vinculo were not forbidden by divine law, how inadequate a remedy would it be for the evils for which so many deem it a panacea. “Divorce a vinculo” as Dr. Brownson truly says, “logically involves divorce ad libitum.” (Essay on “The Family — Christian and Pagan.”) Now, what reason is there to suppose that parties divorced and remated will be happier in the new connection than in the old? As a matter of fact, many persons have been divorced a number of times. Sometimes, too, it happens that, after a period of separation, divorced parties repent of their folly, reunite, and are again divorced. Indeed, experience clearly proves that unhappiness among married people frequently does not arise so much from “mutual incompatibility as from causes inherent in one or both of the parties — causes that would be likely to make a new union as wretched as the old one. There is wisdom in the pithy saying of a recent writer: “Much ill comes, not because men and women are married, but because they are fools.” (Prof. David Swing in Chicago Journal.)
There are some who think that the absolute prohibition of divorce does not contribute to the purity of society, and are therefore of opinion that divorce with liberty to remarry does good in this regard. He who believes the matrimonial bond indissoluble, divorce a vinculo evil, and the connection resulting from it criminal, can only say: “Evil should not be done that good may come.” But, after all, would even passing good come from this greater freedom? In a few exceptional cases — Yes, in the vast majority of cases — No. The trying of divorce as a safeguard of purity is an old experiment, and an unsuccessful one. In Rome adulteries increased as divorces were multiplied. After speaking of the facility and frequency of divorce among the Romans, Gibbon adds:
“A specious theory is confuted by this free and perfect experiment, which demonstrates that the liberty of divorce does not contribute to happiness and virtue. The facility of separation would destroy all mutual confidence, and inflame every trifling dispute. The minute difference between a husband and a stranger, which might so easily be removed, might still more easily be forgotten.” (“Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire,” Milman’s Ed., Vol. III., p. 236.)
How apropos in this connection are the words of Professor Woolsey:
“Nothing is more startling than to pass from the first part or the eighteenth to the latter part of the nineteenth century, and to observe how law has changed and opinion has altered in regard to marriage, the great foundation of society. and to divorce; and how, almost pari passu various offenses against chastity, such as concubinage, prostitution, illegitimate births, abortion, disinclination to family life, have increased also — not, indeed, at the same pace everywhere, or all of them equally in all countries, yet have decidedly increased on the whole.” (“Divorce and Divorce Legislation,” 2d Ed., p. 274.) Surely in few parts of the wide world is the truth of these strong words more evident than in those parts of our own country where loose divorce laws have long prevailed.
It should be noted that, while never allowing the dissolution of the marriage bond, the Catholic Church has always permitted, for grave causes and under certain conditions, a temporary or permanent “separation from bed and board.” The causes which, positis ponendis, such separation may be briefly given thus: mutual consent, adultery, and grave peril of soul or body.
It may be said that there are persons so unhappily mated and so constituted that for them no relief can come save from divorce a vinculo, with permission to remarry. I shall not linger here to point out to such the need of seeking from a higher than earthly power the grace to suffer and be strong. But for those whose reasoning on this subject is of the earth, earthy, I shall add some words of practical worldly wisdom from eminent jurists. In a note to his edition of Blackstone’s “Commentaries,” Mr. John Taylor Coleridge says:
“It is no less truly than beautifully said by Sir W. Scott, in the case of Evans v. Evans, that ‘though in particular cases the repugnance or the law to dissolve the obligation of matrimonial cohabitation may operate with great severity upon individuals, yet it must be carefully remembered that the general happiness of the married life is secured by its indissolubility.’ When people understand that they must live together, except for a few reasons known to the law, they learn to soften by mutual accommodation that yoke which they know they cannot shake off: they become good husbands and good wives from the necessity of remaining husbands and wives: for necessity is a powerful master in teaching the duties which it imposes. If it were once understood that upon mutual disgust married persons might be legally separated, many couples who now pass through the world with mutual comfort, with attention to their common offspring, and to the moral order of civil society, might have been at this moment living in a state of mutual unkindness, in a state of estrangement from their common offspring, and in a state of the most licentious and unrestrained immorality. In this case, as in many other cases, the happiness of some individuals must be sacrificed to the greater and more general good.”
The facility and frequency of divorce, and its lamentable consequences, are nowadays calling much attention to measures of “divorce reform.” “How can divorce reform be best secured?” it may be asked. Believing, as I do, that divorce is evil, I also believe that its “reformation” and its death must be simultaneous. It should cease to be. Divorce as we know it began when marriage was removed from the domain of the church: divorce shall cease when the old order shall be restored. Will this ever come to pass? Perhaps so — after many days. Meanwhile, something might be done, something should be done, to lessen the evils of divorce. Our present divorce legislation must be presumed to be such as the majority of the people wish it. A first step, therefore, in the way of “divorce reform” should be the creation of a more healthy public sentiment on this question. Then will follow measures that will do good in proportion to their stringency. A few practical suggestions as to the salient features of remedial divorce legislation may not be out of place. Persons seeking at the hands of the civil law relief in matrimonial troubles should have the right to ask for divorce a vinculo, or simple separation a mensa et thoro, as they may elect. The number of legally-recognized grounds for divorce should be lessened, and “noiseless” divorces forbidden. “Rapid- transit” facilities for passing through divorce courts should be cut off, and divorce “agencies” should be suppressed. The plaintiff in a divorce case should be a bona fide resident of the judicial district in which his petition is filed, and in every divorce case the legal representatives of the State should appear for the defendant, and, by all means, the right of remarriage after divorce should be restricted. If divorce cannot be legislated out of existence, let, at least, its power for evil be diminished.
James Cardinal Gibbons.
Reply of Bishop Henry C. Potter.
I am asked certain questions with regard to the attitude of the Episcopal Church towards the matter of divorce. In undertaking to answer them, it is to be remembered that there is a considerable variety of opinion which is held in more or less precise conformity with doctrinal or canonical declarations of the church. With these variations this paper, except in so far as it may briefly indicate them, is not concerned. Nor is it an expression of individual opinion. That is not what has been asked for or attempted.
The doctrine and law of the Protestant Episcopal Church on the subject of divorce is contained in canon 13, title II., of the “Digest of the Canons,” 1887. That canon has been to a certain extent interpreted by Episcopal judgments under section IV. The “public opinion” of the clergy or laity can only be ascertained in the usual way; especially by examining their published treatises, letters, etc., and perhaps most satisfactorily by the reports of discussion in the diocesan and general conventions on the subject of divorce. Among members of the Protestant Episcopal Church divorce is excessively rare, cases of uncertainty in the application of the canon are much more rare, and the practice of the clergy is almost perfectly uniform. There is, however, by no means the same uniformity in their opinions either as to divorce or marriage.
As divorce is necessarily a mere accident of marriage, and as divorce is impossible without a precedent marriage, much practical difficulty might arise, and much difference of opinion does arise, from the fact that the Protestant Episcopal Church has nowhere defined marriage. Negatively, it is explicitly affirmed (Article XXV.) that “matrimony is not to be counted for a sacrament of the Gospel.” This might seem to reduce matrimony to a civil contract. And accordingly the first rubric in the Form of Solemnization of Matrimony directs, on the ground of differences of laws in the various States, that “the minister is left to the direction of those laws in everything that regards the civil contract between the parties.” Laws determining what persons shall be capable of contracting would seem to be included in “everything that regards the civil contract; “and unquestionably the laws of most of the States render all persons legally divorced capable of at once contracting a new marriage. Both the first section of canon 13 and the Form of Solemnization, that, “if any persons be joined together otherwise than as God’s word doth allow, their marriage is not lawful.” But it is nowhere excepting as to divorce, declared what the impediments are. The Protestant Episcopal Church has never, by canon or express legislation, published, for instance, a table of prohibited degrees.
On the matter of divorce, however, canon 13, title II., supersedes, for the members of the Protestant Episcopal Church, both a part of the civil law relating to the persons capable of contracting marriage, and also all private judgment as to the teaching of “the Word of God” on that subject. No minister is allowed, as a rule, to solemnize the marriage of any man or woman who has a divorced husband or wife still living. But if the person seeking to be married is the innocent patty in the divorce for adultery, that person, whether man or woman, may be married by a minister of the church. With the above exception, the clergy are forbidden to administer the sacraments to any divorced and remarried person without the express permission of the bishop, unless that person be “penitent” and “in imminent danger of death.” Any doubts “as to the facts of any case under section II. of this canon” must be referred to the bishop. Of course, where there is no reasonable doubt the minister may proceed. It may be added that the sacraments are to be refused also to persons who may be reasonably supposed to have contracted marriage “otherwise,” in any respect. “than as the Word of God and the discipline of this Church doth allow.” These impediments are nowhere defined; and accordingly it has happened that a man who had married a deceased wife’s sister and the woman he had married were, by the private judgment of a priest, refused the holy communion, The civil courts do not seem inclined to protect the clergy from consequences of interference with the civil law. In Southbridge, Mass., a few weeks ago, a man who had been denounced from the altar for marrying again after a divorce obtained a judgment for $1,720.00 damages. The law of the church would seem to be that, even though a legal divorce may have been obtained, remarriage is absolutely forbidden, excepting to the innocent party, whether man or woman, in a divorce for adultery. The penalty for breach of this law might involve, for the officiating clergyman, deposition from the ministry; for the offending man or woman, exclusion from the sacraments, which, in the judgment of a very large number of the clergy, involves everlasting damnation.
It is obvious, then, that the Protestant Episcopal Church allows the complete validity of a divorce a vinculo in the case of adultery, and the right of remarriage to the innocent party. But that church has not determined in what manner either the grounds of the divorce or the “innocence” of either party is to be ascertained. The canon does not require a clergyman to demand, nor can the church enable him to secure, the production of a copy of the record or decree of the court of law by which a divorce is granted, nor would such decree indicate the “innocence” of one party, though it might prove the guilt of the other.
The effect of divorce upon the integrity of the family is too obvious to require stating. As the father and mother are the heads of the family, their separation must inevitably destroy the common family life. On the other hand, it is often contended that the destruction has been already completed, and that a divorce is only the legal recognition of what has already taken place; “the integrity of the family can scarcely remain when either a father or mother, or both are living in violation of the law on which that integrity rests. The question may be asked whether the absolute prohibition of divorce would contribute to the moral purity of society. It is difficult to answer such a question, because anything on the subject must be comparatively worthless until verified by experience. It is quite certain that the prohibition of divorce never prevents illicit sexual connections, as was abundantly proved when divorce in England was put within the reach of persons who were not able to afford the expense of a special act of Parliament. It is, indeed, so palpable a fact that any amount of evidence or argument is wholly superfluous.
The law of the Protestant Episcopal Church is by no means identical with the opinion of either the clergy or the laity. In the judgment of many, the existing law is far too lax, or, at least, the whole doctrine of marriage is far too inadequately dealt with in the authoritative teaching of the church. The opinion of this school finds, perhaps, its most adequate expression in the report of a committee of the last General Convention forming Appendix XIII. of the “Journal” of that convention. It is, substantially, that the Mosaic law of marriage is still binding upon the church, unless directly abrogated by Christ himself; that it was abrogated by him only so far that all divorce was forbidden by him, excepting for the cause of fornication; that a woman might not claim divorce for any reason whatever; that the marriage of a divorced person until the death of the other party is wholly forbidden; that marriage is not merely a civil contract, but a spiritual and supernatural union, requiring for its mutual obligation a supernatural, divine grace; that such grace is only imparted in the sacrament of matrimony, which is a true sacrament and does actually confer grace; that marriage is wholly within the jurisdiction of the church, though the State may determine such rules and guarantees as may secure publicity and sufficient evidence of a marriage, etc.; that severe penalties should be inflicted by the State, on the demand of the church, for the suppression of all offenses against the seventh commandment and sundry other parts of the Mosaic legislation, especially in relation to “prohibited degrees.”
There is another school, equally earnest and sincere in its zeal for the integrity of the family and sexual purity, which would nevertheless repudiate much the greater part of the above assumption. This school, if one may so venture to combine scattered opinions, argues substantially as follows: The type of all Mosaic legislation was circumcision; that rite was of universal obligation and divine authority. St. Paul so regarded it. The abrogation of the law requiring circumcision was, therefore, the abrogation of the whole of the Mosaic legislation. The “burden of proof,” therefore, rests upon those who affirm the present obligation of what formed a part of the Mosaic law; and they must show that it has been reenacted by Christ and his Apostles or forms some part of some other and independent system of law or morals still in force. Christ’s words about divorce are not to be construed as a positive law, but as expressing the ideal of marriage, and corresponding to his words about eunuchs, which not everybody “can receive.” So far as Christ’s words seem to indicate an inequality as to divorce between man and woman, they are explained by the authoritative and inspired assertion of St. Paul: “In Christ Jesus there is neither male nor female.” A divine law is equally authoritative by whomsoever declared. whether by the Son Incarnate or by the Holy Ghost speaking through inspired Apostles. If, then, a divine law was ever capable of suspension or modification, it may still be capable of such suspension or modification in corresponding circumstances. The circumstances which justified a modification of the original divine law of marriage do still exist in many conditions of society and even of individual life. The Protestant Episcopal Church cannot, alone, speak with such authority on disputed passages of Scripture as to justify her ministers in direct disobedience to the civil authority, which is also “ordained of God.” The exegesis of the early church was closely connected with theories about matter, and about the inferiority of women and of married life, which are no longer believed.
Of course this is a very brief statement. As a matter of fact the actual effect of the doctrine and discipline of the Protestant Episcopal Church on marriage and divorce is that divorce among her members is excessively rare; that it is regarded with extreme aversion; and that the public opinion of the church maintains the law as it now is, but could not be trusted to execute laws more stringent. A member of the committee of the General Convention whose report has been already referred to closes that report with the following protest:
“The undersigned finds himself unable to concur in so much of the [proposed] canon as forbids the holy communion to a truly pious and godly woman who has been compelled by long years of suffering from a drunken and brutal husband to obtain a divorce, and has regularly married some suitable person according to the established laws of the land. And also from so much of the [proposed] cannon as may seem to forbid marriage with a deceased wife’s sister.”
The final action on these points, which has already been stated, indicates that the proposed report thus referred to was, in one particular at least, in advance of the sentiment of the church as expressed in her General Convention.
Henry C. Potter
Reply of Colonel Robert G. Ingersoll.
Question (1). Do you believe in the principle of divorce under any circumstances?
The world for the most part is ruled by the tomb, and the living are tyrannized over by the dead. Old ideas, long after the conditions under which they were produced have passed away, often persist in surviving. Many are disposed to worship the ancient — to follow the old paths, without inquiring where they lead, and without knowing exactly where they wish to go themselves.
Opinions on the subject of divorce have been, for the most part, inherited from the early Christians. They have come to us through theological and priestly channels. The early Christians believed that the world was about to be destroyed, or that it was to be purified by fire; that all the wicked were to perish, and that the good were to be caught up in the air to meet their Lord — to remain there, in all probability, until the earth was prepared as a habitation for the blessed. With this thought or belief in their minds, the things of this world were of comparatively no importance, The man who built larger barns in which to store his grain was regarded as a foolish farmer, who had forgotten, in his greed for gain, the value of his own soul. They regarded prosperous people as the children of Mammon, and the unfortunate, the wretched and diseased, as the favorites of God. They discouraged all worldly pursuits, except the soliciting of alms. There was no time to marry or to be given in marriage; no time to build homes and have families. All their thoughts were centered upon the heaven they expected to inherit. Business, love, all secular things, fell into disrepute.
Nothing is said in the Testament about the families of the apostles; nothing of family life, of the sacredness of home; nothing about the necessity of education, the improvement and development of the mind. These things were forgotten, for the reason that nothing, in the presence of the expected event, was considered of any importance, except to be ready when the Son of Man should come. Such was the feeling, that rewards were offered by Christ himself to those who would desert their wives and children. Human love was spoken of with contempt. “Let the dead bury their dead. What is that to thee? Follow thou me.” They not only believed these things, but acted in accordance with them; and, as a consequence, all the relations of life were denied or avoided, and their obligations disregarded. Marriage was discouraged. It was regarded as only one degree above open and unbridled vice, and was allowed only in consideration of human weakness. It was thought far better not to marry — that it was something grander for a man to love God than to love woman. The exceedingly godly, the really spiritual, believed in celibacy, and held the opposite sex in a kind of pious abhorrence. And yet, with that inconsistency so characteristic of theologians, marriage was held to be a sacrament. The priest said to the man who married: “Remember that you are caught for life. This door opens but once. Before this den of matrimony the tracks are all one way.” This was in the nature of a punishment for having married. The theologian felt that the contract of marriage, if not contrary to God’s command, was at least contrary to his advice, and that the married ought to suffer in some way, as a matter of justice. The fact that there could be no divorce, that a mistake could not be corrected, was held up as a warning. At every wedding feast this skeleton stretched its fleshless finger towards bride and groom.
Nearly all intelligent people have given up the idea that the world is about to come to an end. They do not now believe that prosperity is a certain sign of wickedness, or that poverty and wretchedness are sure certificates of virtue. They are hardly convinced that Dives should have been sent to hell simply for being rich, or that Lazarus was entitled to eternal joy on account of his poverty. We now know that prosperous people may be good, and that unfortunate people may be bad, We have reached the conclusion that the practice of virtue tends in the direction of prosperity, and that a violation of the conditions of well-being brings, with absolute certainty, wretchedness and misfortune.
There was a time when it was believed that the sin of an individual was visited upon the tribe, the community, or the nation to which he belonged. It was then thought that if a man or woman had made a vow to God, and had failed to keep the vow, God might punish the entire community; therefore it was the business of the community to see to it that the vow was kept. That idea has been abandoned. As we progress, the rights of the individual are perceived, and we are now beginning dimly to discern that there are no rights higher than the rights of the individual. There was a time when nearly all believed in the reforming power of punishment — in the beneficence of brute force. But the world is changing. It was at one time thought that the Inquisition was the savior of society; that the persecution of the philosopher was requisite to the preservation of the state, and that, no matter what happened, the state should be preserved. We have now more light. And standing upon this luminous point that we call the present, let me answer your questions.
Marriage is the most important, the most sacred, contract that human beings can make. No matter whether we call it a contract, or a sacrament, or both, it remains precisely the same. And no matter whether this contract is entered into in the presence of magistrate or priest, it is exactly the same. A true marriage is a natural concord and agreement of souls, a harmony in which discord is not even imagined; it is a mingling so perfect that only one seems to exist; all other considerations are lost; the present seems to be eternal. In this supreme moment there is no shadow — or the shadow is as luminous as light. And when two beings thus love, thus unite, this is the true marriage of soul and soul. That which is said before the altar, or minister, or magistrate, or in the presence of witnesses, is only the outward evidence of that which has already happened within; it simply testifies to a union that has already taken place — to the uniting of two mornings of hope to reach the night together. Each has found the ideal; the man has found the one woman of all the world — the impersonation of affection, purity, passion, love, beauty, and grace; and the woman has found the one man of all the world, her ideal, and all that she knows of romance, of art, courage, heroism, honesty, is realized in him. The idea of contract is lost. Duty and obligation are instantly changed into desire and joy, and two lives, like uniting streams, flow on as one. Nothing can add to the sacredness of this marriage, to the obligation and duty of each to each. There is nothing in the ceremony except the desire on the part of the man and woman that the whole world should know that they are really married and that their souls have been united.
Every marriage, for a thousand reasons, should be public, should be recorded, should be known; but, above all, to the end that the purity of the union should appear. These ceremonies are not only for the good and for the protection of the married, but also for the protection of their children, and of society as well. But, after all, the marriage remains a contract of the highest possible character — a contract in which each gives and receives a heart.
The question then arises, Should this marriage, under any circumstances, be dissolved? lt is easy to understand the position taken by the various churches; but back of theological opinions is the question of contract.
In this contract of marriage, the man agrees to protect and cherish his wife. Suppose that he refuses to protect; that he abuses, assaults, and tramples upon the woman he wed. What is her redress? Is she under any obligation to him? He has violated the contract. He has failed to protect, and, in addition, he has assaulted her like a wild beast. Is she under any obligation to him? Is she bound by the contract he has broken? If so, what is the consideration for this obligation? Must she live with him for his sake? or, if she leaves him to preserve her life, must she remain his wife for his sake? No intelligent man will answer these questions in the affirmative.
If, then, she is not bound to remain his wife for the husband’s sake, is she bound to remain his wife because the marriage was a sacrament? Is there any obligation on the part of the wife to remain with the brutal husband for the sake of God? Can her conduct affect in any way the happiness of an infinite being? Is it possible for a human being to increase or diminish the well- being of the Infinite?
The next question is as to the right of society in this matter. It must be admitted that the peace of society will be promoted by the separation of such people. Certainly society cannot insist upon a wife remaining with a husband who bruises and mangles her flesh. Even married women have a right to personal security. They do not lose, either by contract or sacrament, the right of self-preservation; this they share in common, to say the least of it, with the lowest living creatures.
This will probably be admitted by most of the enemies of divorce; but they will insist that while the wife has the right to flee from her husband’s roof and seek protection of kindred or friends, the marriage — the sacrament — must remain unbroken. Is it to the interest of society that those who despise each other should live together? Ought the world to be peopled by the children of hatred or disgust, the children of lust and loathing, or by the welcome babes of mutual love? Is it possible that an infinitely wise and compassionate God insists that a helpless woman shall remain the wife of a cruel wretch? Can this add to the joy of Paradise, or tend to keep one harp in tune? Can anything be more infamous than for a government to compel a woman to remain the wife of a man she hates — of one whom she justly holds in abhorrence? Does any decent man wish the assistance of a constable, a sheriff, a judge, or a church, to keep his wife in his house? Is it possible to conceive of a more contemptible human being than a man who would appeal to force in such a case? It may be said that the woman is free to go, and that the courts will protect her from the brutality of the man who promised to be her protector; but where shall the woman go? She may have no friends; or they may be poor; her kindred may be dead. Has she no right to build another home? Must this woman, full of kindness, affection, health, be tied and chained to this living corpse? Is there no future for her? Must she be an outcast forever — deceived and betrayed for her whole life? Can she never sit by her own hearth, with the arms of her children about her neck, and with a husband who loves and protects her? Is she to become a social pariah, and is this for the benefit of society? — or is it for the sake of the wretch who destroyed her life?
The ground has been taken that woman would lose her dignity if marriage could be annulled. Is it necessary to lose your liberty in order to retain your moral character — in order to be pure and womanly? Must a woman, in order to retain her virtue, become a slave, a serf, with a beast for a master, or with society for a master, or with a phantom for a master?
If an infinite being is one of the parties to the contract, is it not the duty of this being to see to it that the contract is carried out? What consideration does the infinite being give? What consideration does he receive? If a wife owes no duty to her husband because the husband has violated the contract, and has even assaulted her life, is it possible for her to feel toward him any real thrill of affection? If she does not, what is there left of marriage? What part of this contract or sacrament remains in living force? She can not sustain the relation of wife, because she abhors him; she cannot remain under the same roof, for fear that she may be killed. They sustain, then, only the relations of hunter and hunted — of tyrant and victim. Is it desirable that this relation should last through life, and that it should be rendered sacred by the ceremony of a church?
Again I ask, Is it desirable to have families raised under such circumstances? Are we in need of children born of such parents? Can the virtue of others be preserved only by this destruction of happiness, by this perpetual imprisonment?
A marriage without love is bad enough, and a marriage for wealth or position is low enough; but what shall we say of a marriage where the parties actually abhor each other? Is there any morality in this? any virtue in this? Is there virtue in retaining the name of wife, or husband, without the real and true relation? Will any good man say, will any good woman declare, that a true, loving woman should be compelled to be the mother of children whose father she detests? Is there a good woman in the world who would not shrink from this herself; and is there a woman so heartless and so immoral that she would force another to bear that from which she would shudderingly and shriekingly shrink?
Marriages are made by men and women; not by society; not by the state; not by the church; not by supernatural beings. By this time we should know that nothing is moral that does not tend to the well-being of sentient beings; that nothing is virtuous the result of which is not good. We know now, if we know anything, that all the reasons for doing right, and all the reasons against doing wrong, are here in this world. We should have imagination enough to put ourselves in the place of another. Let a man suppose himself a helpless woman beaten by a brutal husband — would he advocate divorces then?
Few people have an adequate idea of the sufferings of women and children, of the number of wives who tremble when they hear the footsteps of a returning husband, of the number of children who hide when they hear the voice of a father. Few people know the number of blows that fall on the flesh of the helpless every day, and few know the nights of terror passed by mothers who hold babes to their breasts. Compared with these, all the hardships of poverty borne by those who love each other are as nothing. Men and women truly married bear the sufferings and misfortunes of poverty together. They console each other. In the darkest night they see the radiance of a star, and their affection gives to the heart of each perpetual sunshine.
The good home is the unit of the good government. The hearthstone is the corner-stone of civilization. Society is not interested in the preservation of hateful homes, of homes where husbands and wives are selfish, cold, and cruel. It is not to the interest of society that good women should be enslaved. that they should live in fear, or that they should become mothers by husbands whom they hate. Homes should be filled with kind and generous fathers, with true and loving mothers; and when they are so filled, the world will be civilized. Intelligence will rock the cradle; justice will sit in the courts; wisdom in the legislative halls; and above all and over all, like the dome of heaven, will be the spirit of liberty.
Although marriage is the most important and the most sacred contract that human beings can make, still when that contract has been violated, courts should have the power to declare it null and void upon such conditions as may be just.
As a rule, the woman dowers the husband with her youth. her beauty, her love — with all she has; and from this contract certainly the husband should never be released, unless the wife has broken the conditions of that contract. Divorces should be granted publicly, precisely as the marriage should be solemnized. Every marriage should be known, and there should be witnesses, to the end that the character of the contract entered into should be understood; the record should be open and public. And the same is true of divorces. The conditions should be determined, the property should be divided by a court of equity, and the custody of the children given under regulations prescribed.
Men and women are not virtuous by law. Law does not of itself create virtue, nor is it the foundation or fountain of love. Law should protect virtue, and law should protect the wife, if she has kept her contract, and the husband, if he has fulfilled his. But the death of love is the end of marriage. Love is natural. Back of all ceremony burns and will forever burn the sacred flame. There has been no time in the world’s history when that torch was extinguished. In all ages, in all climes, among all people, there has been true, pure, and unselfish love. Long before a ceremony was thought of, long before a priest existed, then were true and perfect marriages. Back of public opinion is natural modesty, the affections of the heart; and in spite of all law, there is and forever will be the realm of choice. Wherever love is, it is pure; and everywhere, and at all times, the ceremony of marriage testifies to that which has happened within the temple of the human heart.
Question (2). Ought divorced people to be allowed to marry under any circumstances?
This depends upon whether marriage is a crime, If it is not a crime, why should any penalty be attached? Can any one conceive of any reason why a woman obtaining a divorce, without fault on her part, should be compelled as a punishment to remain forever single? Why should she be punished for the dishonesty or brutality of another? Why should a man who faithfully kept his contract of marriage, and who was deserted by an unfaithful wife, be punished for the benefit of society? Why should he be doomed to live without a home?
There is still another view. We must remember that human passions are the same after as before, divorce. To prevent remarriage is to give excuse for vice.
Question (3). What is the effect of divorce upon the integrity of the family?
The real marriage is back of the ceremony, and the real divorce is back of the decree. When love is dead, when husband and wife abhor each other, they are divorced. The decree records in a judicial way what has really taken place, just as the ceremony of marriage attests a contract already made.
The true family is the result of the true marriage, and the institution of the family should above all things be preserved What becomes of the sacredness of the home, if the law compels those who abhor each other to sit at the same hearth? This lowers the standard, and changes the happy haven of home into the prison-cell. If we wish to preserve the integrity of the family, we must preserve the democracy of the fireside, the republicanism of the home, the absolute and perfect equality of husband and wife. There must be no exhibition of force, no specter of fear. The mother must not remain through an order of court, or the command of a priest, or by virtue of the tyranny of society; she must sit in absolute freedom, the queen of herself, the sovereign of her own soul and of her own body. Real homes can never be preserved through force, through slavery, or superstition. Nothing can be more sacred than a home, no altar purer than the hearth.
Question (4). Does the absolute prohibition of divorce where it exists contribute to the moral purity of society?
We must define our terms. What is moral purity? The intelligent of this world seek the well-being of themselves and others. They know that happiness is the only good; and this they strive to attain. To live in accordance with the conditions of well-being is moral in the highest sense. To use the best instrumentalities to attain the highest ends is our highest conception of the moral. In other words, morality is the melody of the perfection of conduct. A man is not moral because he is obedient through fear or ignorance. Morality lives in the realm of perceived obligation, and where a being acts in accordance with perceived obligation, that being is moral. Morality is not the child of slavery. Ignorance is not the corner-stone of virtue.
The first duty of a human being is to himself. He must see to it that he does not become a burden upon others, To be self- respecting, he must endeavor to be self-sustaining. If by his industry and intelligence he accumulates a margin, then he is under obligation to do with that margin all the good he can. He who lives to the ideal does the best he can. In true marriage men and women give not only their bodies, but their souls. This is the ideal marriage; this is moral. They who give their bodies, but not their souls, are not married, whatever the ceremony may be; this is immoral.
If this be true, upon what principle can a woman continue to sustain the relation of wife after love is dead? Is there some other consideration that can take the place of genuine affection? Can she be bribed with money, or a home, or position, or by public opinion, and still remain a virtuous woman? Is it for the good of society that virtue should be thus crucified between church and state? Can it be said that this contributes to the moral purity of the human race?
Is there a higher standard of virtue in countries where divorce is prohibited than in those where it is granted? Where husbands and wives who have ceased to love cannot be divorced, there are mistresses and lovers.
The sacramental view of marriage is the shield of vice. The world looks at the wife who has been abused, who has been driven from the home of her husband, and the world pities; and when this wife is loved by some other man, the world excuses. So, too, the husband who cannot live in peace, who leaves his home, is pitied and excused.
Is it possible to conceive of anything more immoral than for a husband to insist on living with a wife who has no love for him? Is not this a perpetual crime? Is the wife to lose her personality? Has she no right of choice? Is her modesty the property of another? Is the man she hates the lord of her desire? Has she no right to guard the jewels of her soul? Is there a depth below this? And is this the foundation of morality? this the corner-stone of society? this the arch that supports the dome of civilization? Is this pathetic sacrifice on the one hand, this sacrilege on the other, pleasing in the sight of heaven?
To me, the tenderest word in our language, the most pathetic fact within our knowledge, is maternity. Around this sacred word cluster the joys and sorrows, the agonies and ecstasies, of the human race. The mother walks in the shadow of death that she may give another life. Upon the altar of love she puts her own life in pawn. When the world is civilized, no wife will become a mother against her will. Man will then know that to enslave another is to imprison himself.
Robert G. Ingersoll.
A little while ago the North American Review propounded the following questions:
1. Do you believe in the principle of divorce under any circumstances?
2. Ought divorced people to be allowed to marry, under any circumstances?
3. What is the effect of divorce on the integrity of the family?
4. Does the absolute prohibition of divorce, where it exists, contribute to the moral purity of society?
These questions were answered in the November number of the Review, 1889, by Cardinal Gibbons, Bishop Henry C. Potter and myself. In the December number, the same questions were again answered by W.B. Gladstone, Justice Bradley and Senator Dolph. In the following month Mary A. Livermore, Amelia E. Barr, Rose Terry Cooke, Elizabeth Stuart Phelps and Jennie June gave their opinions upon the subject of divorce; and in the February number of this year, Margaret Lee and the Rev. Phillip S. Moxom contributed articles upon this subject.
I propose to review these articles, and, first, let me say a few words in answer to Cardinal Gibbons.
REPLY TO CARDINAL GIBBONS.
The indissolubility of marriage was a reaction from polygamy. Man naturally rushes from one extreme to the other. The Cardinal informs us that “God instituted in Paradise the marriage state, and sanctified it;” that “he established its law of unity and declared its indissolubility.” The Cardinal, however, accounts for polygamy and divorce by saying that, “marriage suffered in the fall.”
If it be true that God instituted marriage in the Garden of Eden, and declared its unity and indissolubility, how do you account for the fact that this same God afterwards upheld polygamy? How is it that he forgot to say anything on the subject when he gave the Ten Commandments to Moses? How does it happen that in these commandments he puts women on an equality with other property — “Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s wife, or thy neighbor’s ox, or anything that is thy neighbor’s”? How did it happen that Jacob, who was in direct communication with God, married, not his deceased wife’s sister, but both sisters, while both were living? Is there any way of accounting for the fact that God upheld concubinage?
Neither is it true that “Christ reasserted in clear and unequivocal terms, the sanctity, unity, and indissolubility of marriage.” Neither is it true that “Christ gave to this state an added holiness and a dignity higher far than it had ‘from the beginning.'” If God declared the unity and indissolubility of marriage in the Garden of Eden, how was it possible for Christ to have “added a holiness and dignity to marriage higher far than it had from the beginning”? How did Christ make marriage a sacrament? There is nothing on that subject in the new Testament; besides, Christ did apparently allow divorce, for one cause at least. He is reported to have said: ” Whosoever putteth away his wife, save for fornication, causeth her to commit adultery.”
The Cardinal answers the question, “Can divorce from the bonds of marriage ever be allowed?” with an emphatic theological “NO,” and as a reason for this “no,” says, “Thus saith the Lord.”
It is true that we regard Mormonism as a national disgrace, and that we so regard it because the Mormons are polygamists. At the same time, intelligent people admit that polygamy is no worse in Utah, than it was in Palestine — no worse under Joseph Smith, than under Jehovah — that it has been and must be forever the same, in all countries and in all times, The Cardinal takes the ground that “there are two species of polygamy — simultaneous and successive,” and yet he seems to regard both species with equal horror. If a wife dies and the husband marries another woman, is not that successive polygamy?
The Cardinal takes the ground that while no dissolution of the marriage bond should be allowed, yet for grave causes a temporary or permanent separation from bed and board may be obtained, and these causes he enumerates as mutual consent, adultery, and grave peril of soul or body.” To those, however, not satisfied with this doctrine, and who are “so unhappily mated and so constituted that for them no relief can come save from absolute divorce,” the Cardinal says, in a very sympathetic way, that he “Will not linger here to point out to such the need of seeking from a higher than earthly power, the grace to suffer and be strong.”
At the foundation and upon the very threshold of this inquiry, one thing ought to be settled, and that is this: Are we to answer these questions in the light of human experience; are we to answer them from the standpoint of what is better here, in this world, for men and women — what is better for society here and now — or are we to ask: What is the will of God? And in order to find out what is this will of God, are we to ask the church, or are we to read what are called “the sacred writings” for ourselves? In other words, are these questions to be settled by theological and ecclesiastical authority, or by the common sense of mankind? No one, in my judgment, should marry for the sake of God, and no one should he divorced for the sake of God, and no man and woman should live together as husband and wife, for the sake of God. God being an infinite being, cannot be rendered unhappy by any action of man, neither can his well-being be increased; consequently, the will of God has nothing whatever to do with this matter. The real question then must be: What is best for man?
Only the other day, a husband sought out his wife and with his own hand covered her face with sulfuric acid, and in a moment afterward she was blind. A Cardinal of the Catholic Church tells this woman, sitting in darkness, that it is her duty to “suffer and be strong”; that she must still remain the wife of this wretch; that to break the bond that binds them together, would be an act of sacrilege. So, too, two years ago, a husband deserted his wife in Germany. He came to this country. She was poor. She had two children — one a babe. Holding one in her arm, and leading the other by the hand, she walked hundreds of miles to the shore of the sea. Overcome by fatigue, she was taken sick, and for months remained in a hospital. Having recovered, she went to work, and finally got enough money to pay her passage to New York. She came to this city, bringing her children with her. Upon her arrival, she commenced a search for her husband. One day overcome by exertion, she fainted in the street. Persons took pity upon her and carried her upstairs into a room. By a strange coincidence, a few moments afterward her husband entered. She recognized him. He fell upon her like a wild beast, and threw her down the stairs. She was taken up from the pavement bleeding, and carried to a hospital.
The Cardinal says to this woman: Remain the wife of this man; it will be very pleasing to God; “suffer and be strong.” But I say to this woman: Apply to some Court; get a decree of absolute divorce; cling to your children, and if at any time hereafter some good and honest man offers you his hand and heart, and you can love him, accept him and build another home, to the end that you may sit by your own fireside, in your old age, with your children about you.
It is not true that the indissolubility of marriage preserves the virtue of mankind. The fact is exactly the opposite. If the Cardinal wishes to know why there are more divorces now than there were fifty or a hundred years ago, let me tell him: Women are far more intelligent — some of them are no longer the slaves either of husbands, or priests. They are beginning to think for themselves. They can see no good reason why they should sacrifice their lives to please Popes or Gods. They are no longer deceived by theological prophecies. They are not willing to suffer here, with the hope of being happy beyond the clouds — they want their happiness now.
REPLY TO BISHOP POTTER.
Bishop Potter does not agree with the Cardinal, yet they both study substantially the same bible — both have been set apart for the purpose of revealing the revelation. They are the persons whose duty it is to enlighten the common people. Cardinal Gibbons knows that he represents the only true church, and Bishop Potter is just as sure that he occupies that position. What is the ordinary man to do?
The Cardinal states, without the slightest hesitation, that “Christ made marriage a sacrament — made it the type of his own never-ending union with his one sinless spouse, the church.” The Bishop does not agree with the Cardinal. He says: “Christ’s words about divorce are not to he construed as a positive law, but as expressing the ideal of marriage, and corresponding to his words about eunuchs, which not everybody can receive.” Ought not the augurs to agree among themselves? What is a man who has only been born once, to do?
The Cardinal says explicitly that marriage is a sacrament, and the Bishop cites Article xxv., that “matrimony is not to be accounted for a sacrament of the gospel,” and then admits that “this might seem to reduce matrimony to a civil contract.” For the purpose of bolstering up that view, he says, “The first rubric in the Form of Solemnization of Matrimony declares that ‘the minister is left to the direction of those laws in every thing that regards a civil contract between the parties.'” He admits that “no minister is allowed, as a rule, to solemnize the marriage of any man or woman who has a divorced husband or wife still living.” As a matter of fact, we know that hundreds of Episcopalians do marry where a wife or a husband is still living, and they are not turned out of the Episcopal Church for this offence. The Bishop admits that the church can do very little on the subject, but seems to gather a little consolation from the fact, that “the penalty for breach of this law might involve, for the officiating clergyman, deposition from the ministry — for the offending man or woman exclusion from the sacraments, which, in the judgment of a very large number of the clergy, involves everlasting damnation.”
The Cardinal is perfectly satisfied that the prohibition of divorce is the foundation of morality, and the Bishop equally certain that “the prohibition of divorce never prevents illicit sexual connections.”
The Bishop also gives us the report of a committee of the last General Convention, forming Appendix xiii of the journal. This report, according to the Bishop, is to the effect “that the Mosaic law of marriage is still binding upon the church unless directly abrogated by Christ himself, that it was abrogated by him only so far that all divorce was forbidden by him excepting for the cause of fornication; that a woman might not claim divorce for any reason whatever; that the marriage of a divorced person until the death of the other party, is wholly forbidden; that marriage is not merely a civil contract but a spiritual and supernatural union, requiring for its mutual obligations a supernatural divine grace, and that such grace is only imparted in the sacrament of matrimony.”
The most beautiful thing about this report is, that a woman might not claim divorce for any reason whatever. I must admit that the report is in exact accordance with the words of Jesus Christ. On the other hand, the Bishop, not to leave us entirely without hope, says that “there is in his church another school, equally earnest and sincere in its zeal for the integrity of the family, which would nevertheless repudiate the greater part of the above report.”
There is one thing, however, that I was exceedingly glad to see, and that is, that according to the Bishop the ideas of the early church are closely connected with theories about matter, and about the inferiority of woman, and about married life, which are no longer believed. The Bishop has, with great clearness, stated several sides of this question; but I must say, that after reading the Cardinal and the Bishop, the earnest theological seeker after truth would find himself, to say the least of it, in some doubt.
As a matter of fact, who cares what the Old Testament says upon this subject? Are we to be bound forever by the ancient barbarians?
REPLY TO MR. GLADSTONE.
Mr. Gladstone takes the ground, first, “that marriage is essentially a contract for life, and only expires when life itself expires”; second, “that Christian marriage involves a vow before God”; third, “that no authority has been given to the Christian Church to cancel such a vow”; fourth, “that it lies beyond the province of the civil legislature, which, from the necessity of things, has a veto within the limits of reason, upon the making of it, but has no competency to annul it when once made”; fifth, “that according to the laws of just interpretation, remarriage is forbidden by the text of Holy Scripture”; and sixth, “that while divorce of any kind impairs the integrity of the family, divorce with remarriage destroys it root and branch; that the parental and the conjugal relations are joined together by the hand of the Almighty no less than the persons united by the marriage tie, to one another.”
First. Undoubtedly, a real marriage was never entered into unless the parties expected to live together as long as they lived. It does not enter into the imagination of the real lover that the time is coming when he is to desert the being he adores, neither does it enter into the imagination of his wife, or of the girl about to become a wife. But how, and in what way, does a Christian marriage involve a vow before God? Is God a party to the contract? If yes, he ought to see to it that the contract is carried out. If there are three parties — the man, the woman, and God — each one should be bound to do something, and what is God bound to do? Is he to hold the man to his contract, when the woman has violated hers? Is it his business to hold the woman to the contract, when the man has violated his? And what right has he to have anything to say on the subject, unless he has agreed to do something by reason of this vow? Otherwise, it would be simply a nudum pactum — a vow without consideration.
Mr. Gladstone informs us that no authority has been given to the Christian Church to cancel such a vow. If he means by that, that God has not given any such authority to the Christian Church, I most cheerfully admit it.
(Note. — This abrupt termination, together with the unfinished replies to Justice Bradley and Senator Dolph, which follow, shows that the author must have been interrupted in his work, and on taking it up concluded that the colloquial and concrete form would serve his turn the more formal and didactic style employed. He thereupon dictated his reply to the Gibbon and Gladstone arguments in the following form which will be regarded as a most interesting instance of the author’s wonderful versatility of style.
This unfinished matter was found among Col. Ingersoll’s manuscripts, and is given as transcribed from the stenographic notes of Mr. I.N. Baker, his secretary, without revision by the author.)
Cardinal Gibbons, Bishop Potter, and Mr. Gladstone represent the theological side — that is to say, the impracticable, the supernatural, the unnatural. After reading their opinions, it is refreshing to read those of Justice Bradley. It is like coming out of the tomb into the fresh air.
Speaking of the law, whether regarded as divine or human or both, Justice Bradley says: “I know no other law on the subject but the moral law, which does not consist of arbitrary enactments and decrees, but is adapted to our condition as human beings. This is so, whether it is conceived of as the will of some all-wise creator. or as the voice of humanity speaking from its experience, its necessities and its higher instincts. And that law surely does not demand that the injured party to the marriage bond should be forever tied to one who disregards and violates every obligation that it imposes — to one with whom it is impossible to cohabit — to one whose touch is contamination. Nor does it demand that such injured patty, if legally free, should be forever debarred from forming other ties through which the lost hopes of happiness for life may be restored. It is not reason, and it can not be law — divine, or moral — that unfaithfulness, or willful and obstinate desertion, or persistent cruelty of the stronger party, should afford no ground for relief. . . . . . . If no redress be legalized, the law itself will be set at defiance, and greater injury to soul and body will result from clandestine methods of relief.”
Surely, this is good, wholesome, practical common sense.
Senator Dolph strikes a strong blow, and takes the foundation from under the idiotic idea of legal separation without divorce. He says: “As there should be no partial divorce, which leaves the parties in the condition aptly described by an eminent jurist as ‘a wife without a husband and a husband without a wife,’ so, as a matter of public expediency, and in the interest of public morals, whenever and however the marriage is dissolved, both parties should be left free to remarry.” Again: “Prohibition of remarriage is likely to injure society more than the remarriage of the guilty party; “and the Senator says, with great force: “Divorce for proper causes, free from fraud and collusion, conserves the moral integrity of the family.”
In answering the question as to whether absolute prohibition of divorce tends to morality or immorality, the Senator cites the case of South Carolina. In that State, divorces were prohibited, and in consequence of this prohibition, the proportion of his property which a married man might give to his concubine was regulated by law.
THE ARGUMENT CONTINUED, IN COLLOQUIAL FORM.
Those who have written on the subject of divorce seem to be divided into two classes — the supernaturalists and the naturalists. The first class rely on tradition, inspired books, the opinions of theologians as expressed in creeds, and the decisions of ecclesiastical tribunals. The second class take into account the nature of human beings, their own experience, and the facts of life, as they know them. The first class live for another world; the second, for this — the one in which we live.
The theological theorists regard men and women as depraved, in consequence of what they are pleased to call “the fall of man,” while the men and women of common sense know that the race has slowly and painfully progressed through countless years of suffering and toil. The priests insist that marriage is a sacrament; the philosopher, that it is a contract.
The question as to the propriety of granting divorces cannot now be settled by quoting passages of Scripture, or by appealing to creeds, or by citing the acts of legislatures or the decisions of courts. With intelligent millions, the Scriptures are no longer considered as of the slightest authority. They pay no more regard to the Bible than to the Koran, the Zend-Avestas, or the Popol Vuh — neither do they care for the various creeds that were formulated by barbarian ancestors, nor for the laws and decisions based upon the savagery of the past.
In the olden times when religions were manufactured — when priest-craft and lunacy governed the world — the women were not consulted. They were regarded and treated as serfs and menials — looked upon as a species of property to be bought and sold like the other domestic animals. This view or estimation of woman was undoubtedly in the mind of the author of the Ten Commandments when he said: “Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s wife, — nor his ox.”
Such, however, has been the advance of woman in all departments of knowledge — such advance having been made in spite of the efforts of the church to keep her the slave of faith — that the obligations, rights and remedies growing out of the contract of marriage and its violation, cannot be finally determined without her consent and approbation. Legislators and priests must consult with wives and mothers. They must become acquainted with their wants and desire — with their profound aversions their pure hatreds, their loving self-denials, and, above all, with the religion of the body that molds and dominates their lives.
We have learned to suspect the truth of the old, because it is old, and for that reason was born in the days of slavery and darkness — because the probability is that the parents of the old were ignorance and superstition. We are beginning to be wise enough to take into consideration the circumstances of our own time — the theories and aspirations of the present — the changed conditions of the world — the discoveries and inventions that have modified or completely changed the standards of the greatest of the human race. We are on the eve of discovering that nothing should be done for the sake of gods, but all for the good of man — nothing for another world — everything for this.
All the theories must be tested by experience, by facts. The moment a supernatural theory comes in contact with a natural fact, it falls to chaos. Let us test all these theories about marriage and divorce — all this sacramental, indissoluble imbecility, with a real case — with a fact in life.
A few years ago a man and woman fell in love and were married in a German village. The woman had a little money and this was squandered by the husband. When the money was gone, the husband deserted his wife and two little children, leaving them to live as best they might. She had honestly given her hand and heart, and believed that if she could only see him once more — if he could again look into her eyes — he would come back to her. The husband had fled to America. The wife lived four hundred miles from the sea. Taking her two little children with her, she traveled on foot the entire distance. For eight weeks she journeyed, and when she reached the sea — tired, hungry, worn out, she fell unconscious in the street. She was taken to the hospital, and for many weeks fought for life upon the shore of death. At last she recovered, and sailed for New York. She was enabled to get just enough money to buy a steerage ticket.
A few days ago, while wandering in the streets of New York in search of her husband, she sank unconscious to the sidewalk. She was taken into the home of another. In a little while her husband entered. He caught sight of his wife. She ran toward him, threw her arms about his neck, and cried: “At last I have found you!” “With an oath, he threw her to the floor; he bruised her flesh with his feet and fists; he dragged her into the hall, and threw her into the street.”
Let us suppose that this poor wife sought out Cardinal Gibbons and the Right Honorable William B. Gladstone, for the purpose of asking their advice. Let us imagine the conversation:
The Wife. My dear Cardinal, I was married four years ago. I loved my husband and I was sure that he loved me. Two babes were born. He deserted me without cause. He left me in poverty and want. Feeling that he had been overcome by some delusion — tempted by something more than he could bear, and dreaming that if I could look upon his face again he would return, I followed him on foot. I walked, with my children in my arms, four hundred miles. I crossed the sea. I found him at last — and instead of giving me again his love, he fell upon me like a wild beast, He bruised and blackened my flesh. He threw me from him, and for my proffered love I received curses and blows. Another man, touched by the evidence of my devotion, made my acquaintance — came to my relief — supplied my wants — gave me and my children comfort, and then offered me his hand and heart, in marriage. My dear Cardinal, I told him that I was a married woman, and he told me that I should obtain a divorce, and so I have come to ask your counsel.
The Cardinal. My dear woman, God instituted in Paradise the marriage state and sanctified it, and he established its law of unity and declared its indissolubility.
The Wife. But, Mr. Cardinal, if it be true that “God instituted marriage in the Garden of Eden, and declared its unity and indissolubility,” how do you account for the fact that this same God afterward upheld polygamy? How is it that he forgot to say anything on the subject when he gave the Ten Commandments to Moses?
The Cardinal. You must remember that the institution of marriage suffered in the fall of man.
The Wife. How does that throw any light upon my case? That was long ago. Surely, I was not represented at that time, and is it right that I should be punished for what was done by others in the very beginning of the world?
The Cardinal. Christ reasserted in clear and unequivocal terms, the sanctity, unity and indissolubility of marriage, and Christ gave to this state an added holiness, and a dignity higher far than it had from the beginning.
The Wife. How did it happen that Jacob, while in direct communication with God, married, not his deceased wife’s sister, but both sisters while both were living? And how, my dear Cardinal, do you account for the fact that God upheld concubinage?
The Cardinal. Marriage is a sacrament. You seem to ask me whether divorce from the bond of marriage can ever be allowed? I answer with an emphatic theological No; and as a reason for this No, I say, Thus saith the Lord. To allow a divorce and to permit the divorced parties, or either of them, to remarry, is one species of polygamy. There are two kinds — the simultaneous and the successive.
The Wife. But why did God allow simultaneous polygamy in Palestine? Was it any better in Palestine then than it is in Utah now? If a wife dies, and the husband marries another wife, is not that successive polygamy?
The Cardinal. Curiosity leads to the commission of deadly sins. We should be satisfied with a Thus saith the Lord, and you should be satisfied with a Thus saith the Cardinal. If you have the right to inquire — to ask questions — then you take upon yourself the right of deciding after the questions have been answered. This is the end of authority. This undermines the cathedral. You must remember the words of our Lord: “What God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.”
The Wife. Do you really think that God joined us together? Did he at the time know what kind of man he was joining to me? Did he then know that he was a wretch, an ingrate, a kind of wild beast? Did he then know that this husband would desert me — leave me with two babes in my arms, without raiment and without food? Did God put his seal upon this bond of marriage, upon this sacrament, and it was well-pleasing in his sight that my life should be sacrificed, and does he leave me now to crawl toward death, in poverty and tears?
The Cardinal. My dear woman, I will not linger here to point out to you the need of seeking from a higher than an earthly power the grace to suffer and be strong.
The Wife. Mr. Cardinal, am I under any obligation to God? Will it increase the happiness of the infinite for me to remain homeless and husbandless? Another offers to make me his wife and to give me a home, — to take care of my children and to fill my heart with joy. If I accept, will the act lessen the felicity or ecstasy of heaven? Will it add to the grief of God? Will it in any way affect his well-being?
The Cardinal. Nothing that we can do can effect the well-being of God. He is infinitely above his children.
The Wife. Then why should he insist upon the sacrifice of my life? Mr. Cardinal, you do not seem to sympathize with me. you do not understand the pangs I feel. You are too far away from my heart, and your words of consolation do not heal the bruise; they leave me as I now leave you — without hope. I will ask the advice of the Right Honorable William E. Gladstone.
The Wife. Mr. Gladstone, yon know my story, and so I ask that you will give me the benefit of your knowledge, of your advice.
Mr. Gladstone. My dear woman, marriage is essentially a contract for life, and only expires when life itself expires. I say this because Christian marriage involves a vow before God, and no authority has been given to the Christian Church to cancel such a vow.
The Wife. Do you consider that God was one of the contracting parties in my marriage? Must all vows made to God be kept? Suppose the vow was made in ignorance in excitement — must it be absolutely fulfilled? Will it make any difference to God whether it is kept or not? Does not an infinite God know the circumstances under which every vow is made? Will he not take into consideration the imperfections, the ignorance, the temptations and the passions of his children? Will God hold a poor girl to the bitter dregs of a mistaken bargain? Have I not suffered enough? Is it necessary that my heart should break? Did not God know at the time the vow was made that it ought not to have been made? If he feels toward me as a father should, why did he give no warning? Why did he accept the vow? Why did he allow a contract to be made giving only to death the annulling power? Is death more merciful than God?
Mr. Gladstone. All vows that are made to God must be kept. Do you not remember that Jephthah agreed to sacrifice the first one who came out of his house to meet him, and that he fulfilled the vow, although in doing so, he murdered his own daughter. God makes no allowance for ignorance, for temptation, for passion — nothing. Besides, my dear woman, to cancel the contract of marriage lies beyond the province of the civil legislature; it has no competency to annul the contract of marriage when once made.
The Wife. The man who has rescued me from the tyranny of my husband — the man who wishes to build me a home and to make my life worth living, wishes to make with me a contract of marriage. This will give my babes a home.
Mr. Gladstone. My dear madam, while divorce of any kind impairs the integrity of the family, divorce with remarriage destroys it root and branch.
The Wife. The integrity of my family is already destroyed. My husband deserted his home — left us in the very depths of want. I have in my arms two helpless babes. I love my children, and I love the man who has offered to give them and myself another fireside. Can you say that this is only destruction? The destruction has already occurred. A remarriage gives a home to me and mine.
Mr. Gladstone. But, my dear mistaken woman, the parental and the conjugal relations are joined together by the hand of the Almighty.
The Wife. Do you believe that the Almighty was cruel enough, in my case, to join the parental and the conjugal relations, to the end that they should endure as long as I can bear the sorrow? If there were three parties to my marriage, my husband, myself, and God, should each be bound by the contract to do something? What did God bind himself to do? If nothing, why should he interfere? If nothing, my vow to him was without consideration. You are as cruel and unsympathetic, Mr. Gladstone, as the Cardinal. You have not the imagination to put yourself in my place.
Mr. Gladstone. My dear madam, we must be governed by the law of Christ, and there must be no remarriage. The husband and wife must remain husband and wife until a separation is caused by death.
The Wife. If Christ was such a believer in the sacredness of the marriage relation, why did he offer rewards not only in this world, but in the next, to husbands who would desert their wives and follow him?
Mr. Gladstone. It is not for us to inquire. God’s ways are not our ways.
The Wife. Nature is better than you. A mother’s love is higher and deeper than your philosophy. I will follow the instincts of my heart. I will provide a home for my babes, and for myself. I will be freed from the infamous man who betrayed me. I will become the wife of another — of one who loves me — and after having filled his life with joy, I hope to die in his arms, surrounded by my children.
A few months ago, a priest made a confession — he could carry his secret no longer. He admitted that he was married — that he was the father of two children — that he had violated his priestly vows. He was unfrocked and cast out. After a time he came back and asked to be restored into the bosom of the church, giving as his reason that he had abandoned his wife and babes. This throws a flood of light on the theological view of marriage.
I know of nothing equal to this, except the story of the Sandwich Island chief who was converted by the missionaries, and wished to join the church. On cross-examination, it turned out that he had twelve wives, and he was informed that a polygamist could not be a Christian. The next year he presented himself again for the purpose of joining the church, and stated that he was not a polygamist — that he had only one wife. When the missionaries asked him what he had done with the other eleven he replied: “I ate them.”
The indissoluble marriage was a reaction from polygamy. The church has always pretended that it was governed by the will of God, and that for all its dogmas it had a “thus saith the Lord.” Reason and experience were branded as false guides. The priests insisted that they were in direct communication with the Infinite — that they spoke by the authority of God, and that the duty of the people was to obey without question and to submit with at least the appearance of gladness.
We now know that no such communication exists — that priests spoke without authority, and that the duty of the people was and is to examine for themselves. We now know that no one knows what the will of God is, or whether or not such a being exists. We now know that nature has furnished all the light there is, and that the inspired books are like all books, and that their value depends on the truth, the beauty, and the wisdom they contain. We also know that it is now impossible to substantiate the supernatural. Judging from experience — reasoning from known facts — we can safely say that society has no right to demand the sacrifice of an innocent individual. Society has no right, under the plea of self- preservation. to compel women to remain the wives of men who have violated the contract of marriage, and who have become objects of contempt and loathing to their wives. It is not to the best interest of society to maintain such firesides — such homes.
The time has not arrived, in my judgment, for the Congress of the United States, under an amendment to the Constitution, to pass a general law applicable to all the States, fixing the terms and conditions of divorce. The States of the Union are not equally enlightened. Some are far more conservative than others. Let us wait until a majority of the States have abandoned the theological theories upon this subject.
Upon this question light comes from the West, where men have recently laid the foundations of States, and where the people are not manacled and burdened with old constitutions and statutes and decisions, and where with a large majority the tendency is to correct the mistakes of their ancestors.
Let the States in their own way solve this question, and the time will come when the people will be ready to enact sensible and reasonable laws touching this important subject, and then the Constitution can be amended and the whole subject controlled by Federal law.
The law, as it now exists in many of the States, is to the last degree absurd and cruel. In some States the husband can obtain a divorce on the ground that the wife has been guilty of adultery, but the wife cannot secure a divorce from the husband simply for the reason that he has been guilty of the same offence. So, in most of the States where divorce is granted on account of desertion for a certain number of years, the husband can return on the last day of the time fixed, and the poor wife who has been left In want is obliged to receive the wretch with open arms, In some States nothing is considered cruelty that does not endanger life or limb or health. The whole question is in great confusion, but after all there are some States where the law is reasonable, and the consequence is, that hundreds and thousands of suffering wives are released from a bondage worse than death.
The idea that marriage is something more than a contract is at the bottom of all the legal and judicial absurdities that surround this subject. The moment that it is regarded from a purely secular standpoint the infamous laws will disappear. We shall then take into consideration the real rights and obligations of the parties to the contract of marriage. We shall have some respect for the sacred feelings of mothers — for the purity of woman — the freedom of the fireside — the real democracy of the hearthstone and, above all, for love, the purest, the profoundest and the holiest of all passions.
We shall no longer listen to priests who regard celibacy as a higher state than marriage, nor to those statesmen who look upon a barbarous code as the foundation of all law.
As long as men imagine that they have property in wives; that women can be owned, body and mind; that it is the duty of wives to obey; that the husband is the master, the source of authority — that his will is law, and that he can call on legislators and courts to protect his superior rights, that to enforce obedience the power of the State is pledged — just so long will millions of husbands be arrogant, tyrannical and cruel.
No gentleman will be content to have a slave for the mother of his children. Force has no place in the world of love. It is impossible to control likes and dislikes by law. No one ever did and no one ever can love on compulsion. Courts can not obtain jurisdiction of the heart.
The tides and currents of the soul care nothing for the creeds. People who make rules for the conduct of others generally break them themselves. It is so easy to bear with fortitude the misfortunes of others.
Every child should be well-born — well fathered and mothered. Society has as great an interest in children as in parents, The innocent should not be compelled by law to suffer for the crimes of the guilty. Wretched and weeping wives are not essential to the welfare of States and Nations.
The church cries now “whom God hath joined together let not man put asunder”; but when the people are really civilized the State will say: “whom Nature hath put asunder let not man bind and manacle together.”
Robert G. Ingersoll.