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The History and Philosophy of Marriage   [ Menu ]

The History and Philosophy of Marriage

Chapter 3
Primary Laws of Marriage

Since the infallible and unchangeable laws of God and of

Nature have limited the indulgence of love to married

persons only, it becomes necessary to inquire into the laws

and limitations of marriage itself. What is marriage? and

who are entitled to its rights and benefits?


The proper definition of marriage is the main point at issue

between the social system of polygamy and that of monogamy,

which it is the object of this treatise to examine and

compare. One system defines marriage to be the exclusive

union of one man to one woman until separated by death or

divorce; the other defines it to be the union of one man to

either one woman or more, until separated, in like manner, by

death or divorce.

Page 41

It now remains for us to determine which of these definitions

is most in harmony with the laws of god and of Nature. And

we shall be better able to do this, by considering carefully

the beneficent purposes which marriage is designed to



Marriage is the first and best of all human institutions, if

it can properly be called human, since it was first

solemnized in Paradise, by the Creator himself, who then

said, "It is not good that the man should be alone; I will

make him a help meet for him." And God blessed them, and God

said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the

earth, and subdue it."

It is impossible to enumerate all the benefits of marriage,

since there is no vital interest of mankind which it does not

affect favorably. Marriage perpetuates the human race; lays

the foundations of organized society; promotes industry;

accumulates wealth; cultivates the arts, and maintains

religion. It builds the house, tills the soil,

Page 42

supports the family, and fosters every charitable and

benevolent enterprise.


As the word of God has declared marriage to be honorable in

all, so we must infer that his laws have made provision for

the honorable marriage of all; and that every person of each

sex is equally entitled to its rights and benefits. These

rights should no more be restricted to the rich and the

fortunate than are the susceptibilities of love, upon which

marriage properly depends, and from which it derives its only

proper warrant and authority.

"Love, and love only, is the loan for love."

Marriage, when authorized and warranted by the promptings of

an honest love, is a pure and blissful consummation of all

that is divine in humanity; but when it is contracted from

mercenary or ambitious motives, it becomes a most unholy

profanation. Love was not made for marriage, but marriage

for love. Love is an inherent and a necessary attribute of


Page 43

marriage a subsequent relationship instituted to minister to

love's wants. Love is the mistress, marriage the handmaid.

Marriage must wait the demands of love, and not love the

demands of marriage. It is, therefore, equally

disrespectful to our Creator, and dishonorable to man, to

require that love should be suppressed because marriage is

inconvenient, and still more dishonorable and disrespectful

to require any one to be deprived of the rights of love on

account of the impossibility of marriage; for marriage ought

to be possible to all. If love be refining and ennobling, if

it be the spontaneous, instinctive birthright of all, and if

our Creator has restricted its indulgence to the marriage

relation, then marriage must be the right of all, or else God

is not a benevolent being. But all nature and all revelation

have demonstrated that he is a benevolent being, and it is

both impious and absurd to believe that his laws have made no

adequate provision for every one to be married who wishes to

be. We may waive our rights, and live in celibacy, if we

prefer to; but no one who loves and who wishes to marry ought

to be compelled to remain unmarried.

Page 44

It is, therefore, demonstrated that any form of society which

fails to provide for the marriage of all is a defective

system, and opposed to the natural, inherent, and inalienable

rights of man.


Yet we well know that there are very many persons, especially

many women, who are neither married nor have an opportunity

to marry. By some means they have been deprived of their

rights. The fault is not theirs; they would, in almost every

instance, prefer wedded life if it were in their power to

attain it; but it is not. They possess the same

susceptibilities of love, the same yearning for intimate

companionship, that others do, but these tender sensibilities

they are obliged to repress. The fault is not in nature, nor

in the laws of God, but it is in the tyrannical laws and

fashions of the artificial system of social life which now

obtains among us. This system must be at fault, for it does

not and it cannot provide for the marriage of all; and many

who desire to marry are forever deprived of husbands and

homes: while the system of polygamy

Page 45

does provide for all, and is, therefore, the only system

which is in harmony with divine and natural laws. This

proposition is further demonstrated by the simple fact that

the number of marriageable women always exceeds the number of

marriageable men.


The statistics of all States and nations agree in this fact,*

except, occasionally, in those States in

[Please see Footnotes below.]

Page 46

which the population is very largely made up by foreign

immigration. Most of these immigrants are men; and many of

them have left their wives and families in the

mother-country, and do not intend to become permanent

citizens, but hope to make their fortunes and return home to

enjoy them. Yet many persons who have never examined

statistical tables, nor taken any other accurate means of

informing themselves, suppose the number of the men to be

equal to that of the women; and it has been a plausible

objection to polygamy, that if some men have a plurality of

wives, some other men must thereby be deprived of any, and

the system must be unequal and unjust. The objection would

be valid were it based upon valid facts: but it is all an

error; and it is one which a little observation would enable

almost any one readily to correct. One has only to count up

the persons of each sex of marriageable age in all

Page 47

the families of his own acquaintance to satisfy himself that

the females will outnumber the males. It is true, that, at

birth, the number of each sex is nearly equal; that of the

males being slightly in excess, but a much larger proportion

of the males die in childhood, than of the females.*

Generally, about fifty per cent of all male children die

before the age of twenty-one years; while only about

thirty-three per cent, or two-thirds as many females, die

during the same period.** And then, as they

Page 48

grow up to manhood, the boys and young men are constantly

exposed to hardships and dangers, from which the softer sex

is exempt; and hence the excess of the females goes on

continually increasing, as we see by the statistical tables,

from the beginning to the end of the marriageable age. All

this in times of peace: the excess must be much greater than

usual after destructive war; for during the late civil war in

America there were lost from both parties nearly a million of

men in the most productive period of life.

Page 49

Young women become marriageable at a much earlier age than

young men do. There is a natural or constitutional

difference of several years, and prudential considerations

cause the difference to become practically greater. But few

young men are born to large fortunes, which these times of

extravagance require for the fashionable maintenance of a

family; and those who are rich are not always the most prompt

to marry. They prefer to spend their early manhood in

dissipation, and are unwilling to bow to the yoke of wedlock


Page 50

they begin to feel the infirmities of age; while the poor man

must devote several years of his majority to toil before he

becomes able to assume matrimonial expenses. The result is

that most men do not marry until between twenty-five and

thirty-five years of age, and many at a later period; while a

large majority of women who marry at all are married between

the ages of fifteen and twenty-five. On the whole,

therefore, women are practically marriageable ten years

younger than men are, a period which constitutes a third part

of the average duration of adult life. From these two causes

alone, - the greater number of women, and their being

marriageable so much younger, - the proportion of

marriageable women to marriageable men would be about two to



But the practical difference is still greater. For after men

have arrived at adult manhood, and have acquired the means of

supporting a family, many of them refuse marriage. Some have

out-lived their youthful desires, and have acquired decided

habits of celibacy; some are too gay and

Page 51

too profligate; others too busy and too selfish; others so

broken down by early dissipation and diseased by the

contagious poison of low vice, that they are totally unfit

to marry: while there are many others whose occupations (such

as sailors and soldiers) most commonly prevent marriage. From

these disabilities the other sex is much more exempt. They

are exposed to fewer temptations; they are more susceptible

to religious impressions; they are more immediately under the

control of parents and guardians, and are saved from many of

those enervating and degrading habits which beset young men,

rendering them either disinclined to marriage, or unfit for

it, or both.


There are, on the other hand, few women who are unwilling to

marry. They are naturally dependent upon their male friends;

and, after the period of childhood, this dependence is seldom

happy or even tolerable, except in the marriage relation.

The former is a dependence of necessity, the latter is, or

ought to be, a dependence of love; and this distinction makes

all the difference in the world.

Page 52

Hence it needs no argument to prove what is so universally

admitted, that women fulfil their highest destiny in life

only by becoming wives and mothers. I will cite a woman's

testimony, and submit the case, quoting the earnest words of

"GAIL HAMILTON." "There is not one woman in a million who

would not be married if ... she could have a chance. How do I

know? Just as I know that the stars are now shining in the

sky, though it is high noon. I never saw a star at noonday;

but I know it is in the nature of stars to shine in the sky,

and of the sky to hold its stars. Genius or fool, rich or

poor, beauty or the beast, if marriage were what it should

be, what God meant it to be, what even, with the world's

present possibilities, it might be, it would be the Elysium,

the sole, complete Elysium, of woman, yes, and of man.

Greatness, glory, usefulness, happiness, await her

otherwheres; but here alone all her powers, all her being,

can find full play. No condition, no character even, can

quite hide the gleam of the sacred fire; but on the household

hearth it joins the warmth of earth to the hues of heaven.

Brilliant, dazzling, vivid, a beacon and a blessing

Page 53

her light may be; but only a happy home blends the prismatic

rays into a soft, serene whiteness, that floods the world

with divine illumination. Without wifely and motherly love,

a part of her nature must remain enclosed, a spring shut up,

a fountain sealed."

New Atmosphere, p.55


But under the system of monogamy it is impossible for half

the women to live in the enjoyment of the married state.

This cruel and oppressive system is compelling them either

to repress the fondest sensibilities and the most imperative

demands of Nature, and to renounce their dearest rights, or

else to assert them in a clandestine and forbidden manner,

and thus to abandon themselves to a life of infamy and an

eternity of shame and woe.

In older and more wealthy countries practising monogamy, the

comparative number of unmarried to married women is even

greater. the statistical tables of England show that less

than one-third of the marriageable women of that country were

living in marriage at the time of the last census.

Page 54

At the period of the highest glory of the Roman empire, and

also during its long decline, while wealth and luxury

increased, and the artificial conventionalities of society

were greatly multiplied, it was observed, with alarm, that

marriages became less and less frequent, and were consummated

later and later in life: and all the power of the government

was exerted in vain to arrest the growing evil. Heavy fines

and special taxes were levied upon old bachelors, and high

premium paid to persons having numerous families; but the

evil continued to increase till the empire was dismembered.*

Page 55

In respect to the mode of performing the marriage ceremony,

the divine law does not prescribe any: and nothing more was

necessary, in ancient times, to constitute a valid marriage

than a mutual agreement, or actual cohabitation. The

ancient Romans had three different modes of tying the

hymeneal knot, each with a different degree of looseness, but

none of them so firm as it should be. The ceremony has

always varied in different States, and at different times in

the same State, and should never be regarded as any thing

more than a public recognition of a relationship already

formed and completed between the parties. Yet as marriage

Page 56

is a matter of important consequence to the friends and

kindred of the parties, and also to the whole State,

involving public as well as private obligations, it is

eminently proper that some appropriate ceremony should be

performed, and that is should be sufficiently public to leave

no doubt as to its reality. Yet marriages are made in

heaven; the claim of the Roman Church to make and unmake them

is a blasphemous assumption. No ceremony can add to their

religious validity; and it can only be necessary to their

legality and publicity.



*"The censuses heretofore taken of more than on hundred

millions of the population of Europe exhibit the remarkable

fact, that in those countries, during the first fifteen years

of life, the males uniformly exceed the females in number,

but that, subsequently to this age, the females become most

numerous, and increasingly so with increase of age. The same

is true with regard to the proportionate numbers of the sexes

in Massachusetts and the other New-England States.

"During the ten years 1856-65, the total number of births

registered in Massachusetts was 334,493, of which 171,584, or

51.29 per cent, were males; 161,715, or 48.35 per cent, were

females; and of 1,194, or 1\3 of one per cent, the sex was

not stated. During the first ten years of life, the deaths of

males exceeded those of females in a ratio beyond that of the

relative number of the sexes at birth.

"In 1855, there were 32,301 more females than males in

Massachusetts; in 1860, 37,640 more females; and the excess

of females in 1865 was 63,011." - Census of Massachusetts for

1865, pp.286,287.

"Ever since the first census of 1765, there has been found

and excess of females over males in Massachusetts; the

disparity has increased somewhat rapidly since 1850." -

Massachusetts Registration Report of Births, Marriages, and

Deaths for 1866. O. Warner, Secretary of Commonwealth,

Boston, 1867.

*In Massachusetts the percentage of the deaths of male

children under one year of age during the year 1866 was

22.25, that of female children during the same year was

17.42. See Massachusetts Registration Report for 1866, p.






June 1, A.D. 1860 Male Female

Male Female Under 1 year, 82 114

Under 1 year, 15,869 15,666 1 and under 5, 410 453

1 and under 5, 60,059 59,695 5 " 10, 566 574

5 " 10, 64,476 64,050 10 " 15, 565 531

10 " 15, 57,544 56,804 15, " 20, 446 648

15 " 20, 57,070 63,730 20, " 30, 1,120 1,655

20 " 30, 112,413 132,106

Total 5,468 7,106

Total 596,713 634,353



(City of Boston), Mass., 1860

Male Female Male Female

Under 1 year, 44,167 42,704

Under 1 year, 2,707 2,743 1 and under 5, 179,253 176,115

1 and under 5, 9,358 9,334 5 " 10, 194,258 191,094

5 " 10, 9,730 9,945 10 " 15, 171,162 167,025

10 " 15, 8,224 8,313 15 " 20, 149,531 160,357

15 " 20, 19,865 23,906 20 " 30, 246,343 263,931

Total 91,045 99,234 Total 1,454,419 1,451,796



Male Female (White), 1860.

Under 1 year, 52,175 51,257 Male Female

1 and under 5, 216,112 210,591 Under 1 year, 7,829 7,475

5 " 10, 232,426 227,413 1 and under 5, 30,864 30,533

10 " 15, 203,453 197,884 5 " 10, 31,981 31,737

15 " 20, 188,893 205,604 10 " 15, 26,135 27,113

20 " 30, 341,037 386,141 15 " 20, 23,425 29,294

20 " 30, 49,667 61,380

Total 1,933,532 1,947,203 Total 260,156 283,188




Male Female Male Female

Under 1 year, 12,246 12,072 Under 1 year, 187 209

1and under 5, 47,074 46,025 1 and under 5 809 1,065

5 " 10, 46,380 45,452 5 " 10, 1,019 1,195

10 " 15, 36,283 34,936 10 " 15, 996 1,199

15 " 20, 33,344 39,628 15 " 20, 915 1,452

20 " 30, 77,747 97,627 20 " 30, 1,875 2,864

Total 391,521 409,567 Total 9,177 13,008


The foregoing statistics are compiled from the United-States

Census for 1860. The following are from the Census of

Massachusetts for 1865, published under the supervision of O.

Warner, Secretary of the Commonwealth. Table I. p. 2.



June 1, 1865. (City of Boston), June 1, 1865.

Male Female Male Female

Under 1 year, 11,974 11,745 Under 1 year, 2,145 2,017

1 and under 2, 12,898 12,431 1 and under 2, 2,003 1,819

2 " 3, 13,643 13,515 2 " 3, 2,288 2,255

3 " 4, 14,161 14,188 3 " 4, 2,205 2,233

4 " 5, 14,735 14,653 4 " 5, 2,280 2,301

5 " 10, 71,777 71,614 5 " 10, 11,267 11,623

10 " 15, 63,853 62,838 10 " 15, 9,848 9,971

15 " 20, 55,281 61,890 15 " 20, 8,527 10,267

20 " 30, 96,027 129,479 20 " 30, 17,601 25,618

Total 602,010 665,021 Total 96,529 111,683


In the above table the excess of females between the ages of

15 and 20 is 6,609, or about 1/8 of the number of males;

between 20 and 30 it is 33,452 , or more than 1/3 of the

number of males.


*"But neither rewards nor penalties proved effectual to check

the increasing tendency to celibacy; and at the period of the

Gracchi an alarm was sounded that the old Roman race was

becoming rapidly extinguished.....When the legislation of

Julius Caesar was found ineffectual for controlling the still

growing evil, it was re-enforced by his successor with fresh

penalties and rewards." - Merivale'a Hist. of the Romans,

chap. 33, vol. 2, pp. 37, 38.

"But upon this one point the master of the Romans [Augustus]

could make no impression upon the dogged disobedience of his

subjects: both the men and the women preferred the loose

terms of union upon which they had consented to cohabit, &c."

- Ibid.

"Augustus most anxiously, both by law and precept, encouraged

marriage; but the profligacy of the manners which then

prevailed was such that all the honors and rewards and

immunities which he prepared were of but little avail." -

Keightley's Hist. of the Roman Empire, chap i., p. 11.

"The principal cause of the prevalent aversion to marriage

was the extreme dissoluteness of manners at that time,

exceeding any thing known in modern days.....The first law on

the subject was the Julian 'De Maritandis Ordinibus,' of 736;

and this having proved ineffectual, a new and more

comprehensive law, embracing all the provisions of the

Julian, and named the 'Papia-Poppaean,' was passed in the

year 762." - Ibid., chap. 2, p. 34.

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The History and Philosophy of Marriage
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Chapter Menu
Chapter 1 - Introductory
Chapter 2 - Primary Laws of Love
Chapter 3 - Primary Laws of Marriage
Chapter 4 - Origin of Polygamy
Chapter 5 - Origin of Monogamy
Chapter 6 - Monogamy After the Introduction of Christianity
Chapter 7 - Monogamy As It Is
Chapter 8 - Relation of Monogamy to Crime
Chapter 9 - Objections to Polygamy
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