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The History and Philosophy of Marriage   [ Menu ]

The History and Philosophy of Marriage


Page 224

When this little book was ready for the press, I found, in

one of our public libraries, an ancient work, in three

volumes, on the same subject, with a formidable Greek title,

as follows: "Thelyphthora; or, a Treatise on Female Ruin, in

its Causes, Effects, Consequences, Prevention, and Remedy,"

&c. Published by J. Dodsley. London, 1781. The work is

learned and heavy, yet it passed through several editions,

and had evidently attracted attention. The author's name

does not appear; but it is well known to have been written

by Rev. Martin Madan, D.D., Chaplain of the Lock Hospital,

London; to the wardens and patrons of which the work is

dedicated. I have read it with much interest, and find it to

contain abundant confirmation of the views expressed in the

foregoing pages.

Page 225

In the preface to the second edition, the author says, "I now

conclude this preface with the contents of a paper received

from a very respectable clergyman, who was candid enough to

let his prejudices submit to his judgement, and had honesty

enough to own it."

I transcribe the greater part of that "paper," omitting such

parts as apply to England only, and not to America.

"As the subject of a late publication entitled Thelyphthora,

or a Treatise on Female Ruin, &c., is much misunderstood and

misrepresented by many people, who have, some of them, never

read it all, and the rest but partially, and not without

prejudice, and therefore oppose it, 'tis judged best to send

its opposers the following questions for them to answer. the

doing of this, 'tis thought, will bring the matter to a

point, enter upon particulars, and be a means to discover

where and with whom truth is, and where and with whom error


"1. Are the mischievous, shocking crimes of whoredom,

fornication, and adultery got to an enormous and increasing

height in the land, and is the

Page 226

land defiled and deluged by them, or not? and is the frown

of God upon the land, or is it not?

"2. Is it needful, and is it our bounden duty, to cry aloud

against these God-provoking and nation-ruining sins, and to

seek a remedy against this monstrous evil, or is it not?

"3. Is there any thing destructively horrible in the lives,

and any thing shockingly dreadful in the deaths, of

abandoned women, alias common prostitutes, or is there not?

"4. What number, how many thousands, are there of these

miserable creatures in our land? and have they any evil

effect on the male sex, or not?

"5. Do our laws, as they now stand, hinder this ruinous

evil, or do they not? and can they, or can they not?

"8. Is there any remedy at all spoken of in God's word

against the great evil of lewdness? and, if there be, what

is that particular remedy?

"9. Does God, in his word, order that whores, adulterers,

and adulteresses shall be put to death or does he not?

(See Lev. xx. 10; Deut. xxii. 21,22.)

"12. Is there any particular recompense that God in his

word orders an unmarried man to make

Page 227

to a virgin whom he has defiled, or is there not? and, if

there be, what is it? (See Ex. xxii. 16,17; Deut. xxii.


"13. Is there any particular recompense that a married man

is en-joined to make the virgin whom he has defiled, or is

there not? If there be, what is it? Is the virgin in the

above case to receive a recompense, and the virgin in the

above in this case to receive none, and to be abandoned?

(See the Scriptures above noted.)

"14. Is our marriage-ceremony in the church so of the

essence of marriage as to constitute marriage; and,

therefore, none are married in God's sight, but what are

joined together by a priest with that ceremony?

"15. Is the marriage of the people called 'Quakers' in this

land marriage in God's sight? and also according to our


"17. In what way, or by what form, were all those people of

old joined together, whose marriages are recorded in

Scripture history?

"18. In what way, or by what form, were Christians married

for up-wards of a thousand years immediately after the birth

of Christ?

Page 228

"19. Was our church marriage-ceremony the consequence of

Pope Innocent III. putting marriage, as a sacrament, into

the hands of popish priests, or was it not?

"20. What reason can be assigned for God's permitting so

many people, and particularly some of his distinguished

saints of old, to live allowedly in the practice of polygamy,

and to die without ever reproving them, calling them to

repentance, and without their ever expressing any sorrow for

it, and showing any evidences at all of their repentance?

and if God's word be the rule of our conduct, and if the

example of these saints be written for our learning, what

are we to learn from them respecting polygamy?

"21. If these saints of old lived and died in sin, by

living and dying in the allowed practice of polygamy, what is

the name of the sin? By what term is it to be distinguished?

Was is adultery? or whoredom? or fornication? Was their

commerce licit, or illicit? What commandment did they sin

against? Were they adulterers, whoremongers, or fornicators?

What does the Scripture history of the lives and deaths of

these saints teach us to call their practice?

Page 229

"22. Were Hannah and Rachel and (after Uriah's death)

Bathsheba whores or adulteresses; or were they lawful and

honored wives? How are they spoken of, and how were they

treated, as the Scripture history informs us?

"23. Were Joseph, Samuel, and Solomon bastards, or

honorable and legitimate sons? In what character were they

spoken of and treated? Did God show favor to them, or

dislike of them?

"24. Were not Hannah, Rachel, and Bathsheba whores or

adulteresses; and Joseph, Samuel, and Solomon bastards,

according to the laws of our land?

"26. In what way can a stop be put to these following

ruinous, detestable, horrible, and national evils; namely,

brothel-keeping; murdering of infants by seduced women;

pregnant virgins committing of suicides; the venereal disease;

seduction; prostitution; whoredom; adultery; and all the

deplorable evils accompanying and following the mischievous

sins of lewdness in this land? If God's law respecting the

commerce of the sexes was observed, and if the laws of our

land were to enforce that, might we not expect his blessing


Page 230

such means used to accomplished so needed and so desirable

an end?

"After these questions are answered, in a plain, fair, and

scriptural manner, and the answers are honest, free from

paltry subterfuge and equivocation, we shall find out whether

the scheme in that book has a good or a bad tendency; whether

to be reprobated or received; and whether the friends and

abettors of it are friends or foes to their country, the

cause of God, the temporal, spiritual, and eternal welfare of

their fellow-creatures?"

Another learned work, in two octavo volumes, bearing

directly upon my subject, has just now (1869) been issued

from the London press, entitled "History of European Morals,

from Augustus to Charlemagne. By W. E. H. Lecky, M.A."

The preceding pages of "The History and Philosophy of

Marriage" had all been stereotyped before these elegant

volumes came to hand; and it is only in this appendix, and

at this last moment, that I can pass them under a brief

review. Having spent fifteen years in the same field of

study, with a similar object in view, and being well aware of

the interest and importance of this de-

Page 231

partment of history, I scarcely need to say I have read Mr.

Lecky's work with a keen appreciation of its worth, which has

increased with each successive page. I cannot express my

sincere admiration of the rare skill and fidelity with which

the author has elaborated his theories, grouped his facts,

and collated his authorities; investing the usually dry and

abstruse study of moral philosophy with so much of both

pleasure and profit as to unite the amusement of romance to

the instruction of authentic records. The plan of my own

essay, to which this notice is appended, being much less

voluminous, and less pretentious, I could not introduce so

many citations as I often wished, - an inability which I need

not now regret, since this work has appeared, to which I can

and do hereby refer. And yet these volumes do not seem to be

altogether complete. They are as remarkable for what they

omit as for what they contain, and suggest the question,

Whether the distinguished author be not too good a philosopher

to be, at the same time, a very good historian? whether his

fondness for speculation has not too often diverted his

attention from a categorical

Page 232

description of the morals and manners of the numerous

tribes, and the long periods of time embraced within the

scope of his history? His pro-found disquisitions are models

of excellence, as such, and are copiously illustrated by

incontestable facts and authorities; but he does not give us

enough such disquisitions to constitute together the history

of the morals of the given period. His work consists rather

of some speculations on European morals then a history of

them during seven centuries. He gives us admirable

monographs on the different schools of moral philosophy, on

the Pagan persecutions, on stoicism, on neo-Platonism, on

miracles, on chastity, on asceticism, on monachism, on the

celibacy of the clergy, on abortion, on infanticide, and

exposure of children, &c., which are all very good; but he

gives us no similar sketches of the history of marriage, of

divorce, of adultery, of prostitution, of monogamy, of

polygamy, of Paganism, of Gnosticism, of Catholicism, of

Mohammedanism, &c., each one of which forms an essential part

of the history of European morals. His plan of philosophical

disquisitions, also, interrupts and confounds all

chronological order,

Page 233

and leaves no room for those biographical sketches of

distinguished men, whose private lives give moral tone and

character to the times in which they live, which we always

look for in a work of history, and especially in a history of

morals, and the want of which, in these volumes, will be

es-teemed, by some at least, as a serious defect.

It happens, curiously enough, that what Mr. Lecky has

omitted, I have, in "The History and Philosophy of

Marriage," in part supplied, perhaps in a less satisfactory

manner, but with no less sincere an appreciation of the

truth, which it belongs to history to disentangle and unfold.

In the first chapter of "The History of European Morals,"

the author seems to me to degrade the passion of love and the

institution of marriage below their just rank in the scale of

morals, and to attribute to a life of continence a higher

sanctity than the facts which he cites can warrant. (I quote

from p. 107, et seq., vol. i.)

"We have," says he, "an innate, intuitive, instinctive

perception, that there is something degrading in the sensual

part of our nature; something to

Page 234

which a feeling of shame is naturally attached; something

that jars with our conception of perfect purity; something we

could not with any propriety ascribe to an all-holy Being."

"It is this feeling, or instinct, which produces that sense

of the sanctity of perfect continence, which the Catholic

Church has so warmly encouraged, but which may be traced

through the most distant ages and the most various creeds. We

find it among the Nazarenes and the Essenes of Judaea, among

the priests of Egypt and India, in the monasteries of

Tartary, and . . . in the mythologies of Asia." "In the

midst of the sensuality of ancient Greece, chastity was the

pre-eminent attribute ascribed to Athene and Artemis. 'Chaste

daughter of Zeus,' prayed the suppliants in AEschylus, 'thou

whose calm eye is never troubled, look down upon us! Virgin,

defend the virgins!'" "Celibacy was an essential condition in

a few orders of priests, and in several orders of

priestesses." "Strabo mentions the existence in Thrace of

societies of men aspiring to perfection by celibacy and

austere lives." At Rome, . . . "we find the traces of this

higher ideal in the intense sanctity attributed to the vestal

virgins, . . . in the legend of Claudia, . . . in the

prophetic gift so often attributed to virgins, in the law

which sheltered them from an execution, and in the language

of Statius, who described marriage itself as a fault. In

Christianity, scarcely any other single circumstance has

contributed so much to the attraction of the faith as the

ascription of virginity to the female ideal."

Now, all this, and a deal more, which I need

Page 235

not quote, of the same sort, only proves, that, in respect

of chastity, they frequently adore it most who lack it most;

and, in respect of love and marriage, that human sentiments

are so influenced by fashionable vice, that we are often

ashamed of what we ought to be proud, and proud of what we

ought to be ashamed. We possess such contradictory

sentiments and such conflicting passions, that we need a

divine law to teach us what is right and what is wrong, and

what is pure and what is impure. And divine law has taught

us that marriage is honorable; that the normal exercise of

love is the noblest and purest passion of the soul; and that

the normal gratification of the reproductive instinct is the

highest function of the body: and those only are ashamed of

it who either indulge it abnormally and sinfully, or who

desire to. Then, by the law of association, this guilty

impurity imparts its own defilement to every act and thought

of love, until the passion itself seems, as it is to them,

degrading and impure. Thus this notion arises, not from its

proper use, but only from its abuse; and the law of increase

ever remains the primal law of Nature: nor is it true, as he


Page 236

serts, that we cannot, with any propriety, ascribe it to an

"all-holy Being." Our first parents were "all-holy;" yet

this passion can be ascribed to them with the utmost

propriety; for "God said unto them, Be fruitful, and

multiply, and replenish the earth." "And they were not


"Nor turned, I ween,

Adam from his fair spouse; nor Eve the rites

Mysterious of connubial love refused:

Whatever hypocrites austerely talk

Of purity and place and innocence;

Defaming as impure what God declares

Pure, and commands to some, leaves free to all."

But our author's own pages furnish further refutation of his

theory, in his sketch of the history of asceticism, which at

the same time affords so full and so apt a confirmation of my

assertions in respect of the evil influences of Gnosticism

and Platonism upon mediaeval Christianity and the European

marriage-system, that I quote the following from his 4th and

5th chapters, vol. ii. pp. 108, 119, 138, 340, 363, &c.: -

"The central conceptions of the monastic system are the

meritoriousness of complete abstinence from

Page 237

all sexual intercourse, and of complete renunciation of the

world. The first of these notions appeared in the very

earliest period, in the respect attached to the condition of

virginity, which was always regarded as sacred, and

especially esteemed in the clergy, though for a long time it

was not imposed as an obligation." "On the outskirts of the

Church, the many sects of Gnostics and Manicheans all held,

under different forms, the essential evil of matter." "The

object of the ascetic was to attract men to a life of

virginity; and, as a necessary consequence, marriage was

treated as an inferior state." "'To cut down by the axe of

virginity the wood of marriage,' was, in the energetic

language of St. Jerome, the end of the saint." "Whenever any

strong religious fervour fell upon a husband or a wife, its

first effect was to make a happy union impossible. The more

religious partner immediately desired to live a life of

solitary asceticism." "St. Nilus, when he had already two

children, was seized with a longing for the prevailing

asceticism; and his wife was persuaded, after many tears, to

consent to their separation. St. Ammon, on the night of his

marriage, proceeded to greet his bride with an harangue upon

the evils of the married state, and they agreed at once to

separate. St. Melania labored long and earnestly to induce

her husband to allow her to desert his bed." St. Abraham ran

away from his wife on the night of his marriage." "Woman was

represented as the door of hell, as the mother of all human

ills. She should be ashamed at the very thought that she is

a woman. She should live in continual penance, on account of

the curses she has brought upon the

Page 238

world. She should be ashamed of her dress; for it is the

memorial of her fall. She should be especially ashamed of

her beauty; for it is the most potent instrument of the

demon." "To break by his ingratitude the heart of the mother

who had borne him, to persuade the wife who adored him that

it was her duty to separate from him forever, to abandon his

children, was regarded by the hermit as the most acceptable

offering he could make to his God." "St. Simeon Stylites, who

had been passionately loved by his parents, began his saintly

career by breaking the heart of his father, who died of grief

at his flight to the desert. His mother, twenty-seven years

after, when she heard, for the first time, where he was,

hastened to visit him. But all her labor was in vain: no

woman was admitted within the precincts of his dwelling; and

he refused to permit her even to look upon his face." "Three

days and three nights she wept and entreated in vain; and

exhausted with grief, age, and privation, she sank feebly to

the ground, and breathed her last before his door. Then, for

the first time, the saint, accompanied by his followers, came

out. He shed some pious tears over the corpse of his

murdered mother, and offered up a prayer, consigning her soul

to heaven. Then, amid the admiring murmurs of his

disciples, the saintly matricide returned to his devotions."

"He had bound a rope around him, so that it had become

embedded in his flesh, which putrified around it. A horrible

stench exhaled from his body, and worms dropped from him

whenever he moved. He built successively three pillars, the

last being sixty feet high, and scarcely three feet in


Page 239

and on this pillar he lived during thirty years, exposed to

every change of climate, ceaselessly and rapidly bending his

body in prayer almost to the level of his feet. For one

year, he stood upon one leg, the other covered with hideous

ulcers; while his biographer was commissioned to stand by his

side, and pick up the worms that fell from his body, and

replace them in the sores, the saint saying to the worm, 'Eat

what God has given you.'" "For six months, St. Macarius of

Alexandria slept in a marsh, and exposed his body, naked, to

the stings of venomous flies. He was accustomed to carry

about with him eighty pounds of iron. His disciple, St.

Eusebius, carried a hundred and fifty pounds of iron, and

lived for three years in a dried-up well. St. Sabinus would

only eat corn that had become rotten by remaining for a month

in water." "A man named Mutius, accompanied by his only

child, a little boy of eight years old, once abandoned his

possessions, and demanded admission into a monastery. The

monks received him; but they proceeded to discipline his

heart. His little child was clothed in rags, beaten,

spurned, and ill treated. Day after day, the father was

compelled to look upon his boy wasting away in sorrow, his

once happy countenance forever stained with tears, distorted

by sobs of anguish. But yet, says the admiring biographer,

such was his love for Christ, and for the virtue of

obedience, that the father's heart was rigid and unmoved."

"But most terrible of all were the struggles of young and

ardent men, through whose veins the hot blood of passion

continually flowed, physically incapable of life of celibacy,

who were borne on

Page 240

the wave of enthusiasm to the desert life. In the arms of

Syrian or African brides, whose soft eyes answered love with

love, they might have sunk to rest; but in the lonely desert

no peace could ever visit their souls. Multiplying, with

frantic energy, the macerations of the body, beating their

breasts with anguish, the tears forever streaming from their

eyes, imagining themselves continually haunted by forms of

deadly beauty, their struggles not unfrequently ended in

insanity and in suicide. When St. Pachomius and St. Palaemon

were once conversing together in the desert, a young monk

rushed into their presence in a distracted manner, and,

convulsed with sobs, poured out his tale of sorrows. A woman

had entered his cell, and had seduced him, and then vanished,

leaving him half dead upon the ground; then, with a wild

shriek, the monk broke away, rushed across the desert till he

arrived at the next village; and there, leaping into the open

furnace of the public baths, he perished in the flames."

"In the time of St. Cyprian, before the Decian persecution,

it had been common to find clergy professing celibacy, but

keeping, under various pretexts, their mistresses in their

houses; and, after Constantine, the complaints on this

subject became loud and general. Virgins and monks often

lived together in the same house; and with a curious audacity

of hypocrisy, which is very frequently noticed, they

professed to have so overcome the passions of their nature,

that they shared in chastity the same bed." "Noble ladies,

pretending a desire to live a life of continence, abandoned

their husbands, to live with low-born lovers. Palestine,

Page 241

which soon became the centre of pilgrimages, had become, in

the time of St. Gregory of Nyssa, a hot-bed of debauchery."

"There were few towns in Central Europe, on the way to Rome,

in the eighth century, where English ladies who started as

pilgrims were not living in open prostitution."

The last chapter of this "History of European Morals" also

furnishes a complete confirmation of my own assertion (ante

p. 60), that the barbarian polygamists from Asia, who

successively invaded Europe, were possessed of a higher

social purity than the monogamous Romans, or than they

themselves possessed after they had adopted the European


"In respect of this virtue [chastity], the various tribes of

barbarians, however violent and lawless, were far superior

to the more civilized community." "The moral purity of the

barbarians was of a kind altogether different from that

which the ascetic movement inculcated. It was concentrated

exclusively upon marriage. It showed itself in a noble

conjugal fidelity; but it was little fitted for a life of

celibacy." "The practice of polygamy among the barbarian

kings was also, for some centuries unchecked, or, at least,

unsuppressed, by Christianity. The kings Caribert and

Chilperic had both many wives at the same time. Clothaire

married the sister of his first wife during the life-time of

the latter; who, on the king announcing

Page 242

his intention to her, is reported to have said, 'Let my lord

do what seemeth good in his sight; only let thy servant live

in they favour.' St. Columbanus was expelled from Gaul

chiefly on account of his denunciations of the polygamy of

King Thierry. Dagobert had three wives, as well as a

multitude of concubines. Charlemagne himself had, at the

same time, two wives; and he indulged largely in concubines.

After this period, examples of this nature became rare."

"But, notwithstanding these startling facts, there can be no

doubt that the general purity of the barbarians was, from the

first, superior to that of the later Romans."

Perhaps our learned author calls these facts "startling,"

because they do not accord with modern notions of the

superior purity of monogamy which he seems to entertain, in

common with other Europeans, in spite of a thousand other

"facts" to the contrary which his own volumes contain. For

example, in his sketch of the morals of ancient Greece, the

"facts" seem "perplexing" to him. In the heroic age, when

polygamy was practised, the noblest types of female virtue

and excellence abounded; but in the later period, when the

"higher state" of monogamy prevailed, female virtue

experienced a sudden eclipse, so dark and total, and so

incompatible with his theory of the

Page 243

superior purity of monogamy, that he expresses the utmost

shame and reluctance in being obliged to record the

evidences of its gross depravity. Hear what he says, and

pardon his errors in theory, for they are those of his age;

admire his candor, and fidelity to facts, for they are the

highest qualifications of an historian.

"It is one of the most remarkable, and, to some writers, one

of the most perplexing facts in the moral history of Greece,

that, in the former and ruder period, women had undoubtedly

the highest place, and their type exhibited the highest

perfection. Moral ideas, in a thousand forms, have been

sublimated, enlarged, and changed by advancing civilization;

but it may be fearlessly asserted, that the types of female

excellence which are contained in the Greek poems, while they

are among the earliest, are also-among the most perfect, in

the literature of mankind. The conjugal tenderness of Hector

and Andromache; the unwearied fidelity of Penelope, awaiting

through the long, revolving years the return of her

storm-tossed husband; the heroic love of Alcestis,

voluntarily dying, that her husband might live; the filial

piety of Antigone; the majestic grandeur of the death of

Polyxena; the more saintly resignation of Iphigenia,

excusing with her last breath the father who had condemned

her; the joyous, modest, and loving Nausicaa, whose figure

shines like a perfect idyll among the tragedies of the

Odyssey, - all these are pictures

Page 244

of perennial beauty which Rome and Christendom, chivalry and

modern civilization, have neither eclipsed nor transcended.

Virgin modesty and conjugal fidelity, the graces, as well as

the virtues of the most perfect womanhood, have never been

more exquisitely portrayed."

Such was the golden age of polygamy. Now look on that

picture, and then on this, both drawn by the same hand, and

that the hand of a monogamist.

"In the historical [or monogamous] age of Greece, the legal

position of women had, in some measure, slightly improved;

but their moral condition had undergone a marked

deterioration. The foremost, and most dazzling type of Ionic

womanhood was the courtesan; and among the males, at least,

the empire of passion was almost unrestricted. The

peculiarity of Greek sensuality is, that it grew up, for the

most part, uncensured, and, indeed, even encouraged, under

the eyes of some of the most illustrious of moralists. If we

can imagine Ninon de l'Enclos, at a time when the rank and

splendour of Parisian society thronged her drawing-rooms,

reckoning a Bossuet or a Fenelon among her followers; if we

can imagine these prelates publicly advising her about her

profession, and the means of attaching the affections of her

lovers, - we shall have conceived a relation like that which

existed between Socrates and the courtesan Theodota." "In the

Greek civilization, legislators and moralists recognized two

distinct orders of womanhood,

Page 245

-the wife, whose first duty was fidelity to her husband, and

the hetaera, the mistress, who subsisted by her fugitive

attachments. The wives lived in almost absolute seclusion.

They were usually married when very young. The more wealthy

seldom went abroad, and never, except when accompanied by a

female slave; never attended the public spectacles; received

no male visitors, except in the presence of their husbands;

and had not even a seat at their own tables when male guests

were there. Thucydides doubtless expressed the prevailing

sentiment of his country-men when he said that the highest

merit of women is not to be spoken of either for good or for

evil." "The names of virtuous women scarcely appear in Greek

history." "A few instances of conjugal and filial affection

have been recorded; but, in general, the only women who

attracted the notice of the people were the hetaerae, or

courtesans." "The voluptuous worship of Aphrodite gave a kind

of religious sanction to their profession. Courtesans were

the priestesses in her temples." "The courtesan was the queen

of beauty. She was the model of the statues of Aphrodite,

that commanded the admiration of Greece. Praxiteles was

accustomed to reproduce the form of Phyrne; and her statue,

carved in gold, stood in the temple of Apollo." "Apelles was

at once the painter and lover of Lais." "The courtesan was

the one free woman of Athens; and she often availed herself

of her freedom to acquire a degree of knowledge which enabled

her to add to her other charms an intense intellectual

fascination." . . . "My task in describing this aspect of

Greek life has been an eminently

Page 246

unpleasing one; and I should certainly not have entered upon

even the baldest and most guarded disquisition on a subject

so difficult, painful, and delicate, had it not been

absolutely indispensable to a history of morals. What I

have written will sufficiently explain why Greece, which was

fertile, probably, beyond all other lands, in great men, was

so remarkably barren of great women." "The Christian

doctrine, that it is criminal to gratify a powerful and a

transient physical appetite, except under the condition of a

lifelong contract, was altogether unknown." "An aversion to

marriage became very general, and illicit connections were

formed with the most perfect frankness and publicity."

In support of his opinion, that monogamy is a higher state

of morals than polygamy, Mr. Lecky, in the final chapter,

brings forward four arguments, which merit a fair statement.

"We may regard monogamy," he says, "either in the light of

our intuitive moral sentiment on the subject of chastity, or

in the light of the interests of society. By the first, I

understand that universal perception or conviction which I

believe to be an ultimate fact in human nature, that the

sensual side of our being is the lower side, and some degree

of shame may appropriately be attached to it. In its

Oriental or polygamous stage, marriage is regarded almost

exclusively in its sensual aspect, as a gratification of the

animal passions; while in European marriages . . . the

lower element has comparatively

Page 247

little prominence. In this respect, it may be

intelligibly said that monogamy is a higher state than

polygamy. The utilitarian arguments are also extremely

powerful, and may be summed up in three sentences. Nature,

by making the number of males and females nearly equal,

indicates it as natural. In no other form of marriage can

the government of the family be so happily sustained; and in

no other does woman assume the position of the equal of man."

I have already anticipated and considered the last three

arguments in "The History and Philosophy of Marriage," and I

have also incidentally touched upon the first in my

examination of our author's views of chastity and continence;

but as he seems to place a great stress upon this notion,and

repeats it again and again, I will venture to offer another

word in reply. If an enforced monogamy be more chaste than

polygamy, then, for a stronger reason, an enforced celibacy

is more chaste than monogamy, - a conclusion of which his own

work demonstrates the absurdity, as does every other

respectable history of real life in any age or country. I

yield to no one in a most profound respect for chastity, and

in a most sincere desire to promote it; but by as much as I

venture true chas-

Page 248

tity by so much do I detest its counterfeit. I have

demonstrated that our present system of monogamy is a

counterfeit, stimulating the most loath-some vices of

prostitution and hypocrisy; and I assert that the only

effectual manner in which social purity and honesty can be

maintained is by promoting the utmost purity of marriage.

All men are not alike. Let there be no Procustean

marriage-bed. If there are those who are able and willing,

for the love of God and the better service of the Church, to

devote them-selves to a voluntary life of honest celibacy,

we respect and venerate them for it. If there are others

who will each honestly and cheerfully content himself with

one wife, "and, forsaking all others, keep himself only unto

her so long as they both shall live," at the same time

avoiding all matrimonial abuse and excess, we will respect

them but little less than the former; but, again, if there

are others, whose measure of vitality is so large that they

cannot and will not be restricted to a single marriage, or

whose wives are confirmed invalids, and hopelessly barren and

incapable of matrimonial duty, - I would not oblige these men

Page 249

either to murder or to divorce their present wives, or to

live a life of matrimonial brutality, or of desperate

licentiousness; but I would grant them the right to marry

again, as the best possible alternative. And I insist that

the man who should thus openly maintain his natural rights,

and live an honest life, would still be worthy of public

confidence and respect. Such men, by taking additional

wives, would become the most efficient public benefactors, by

providing for the otherwise homeless and abandoned women, and

by furnishing the only possible preventive of the great

social evil. The time has gone by for accepting the mere

outward profession of sanctity: we require substantial

evidences of its possession before we consent to accord to

its claimants their proper honors. No one can now escape

publicity. The almost omnipresent reporters of the press

invade our sanctuaries and our bed-chambers; and a bird of

the air shall carry the matter. Men and women need affect no

purity or sanctity which they do no possess. The fiat has

gone forth, "Let there be light;" and, in our present

situation, what we most desire is more light. And Mr. Lecky

himself, at last, virtually

Page 250

admits, that, while monogamy should be the ideal type of the

matrimonial relation, its universal, honest observance is an

impossibility. But, instead of recommending the pure and

divinely-sanctioned freedom of polygamy, he prefers to pander

to the licentious tendencies of a luxurious age, by

suggesting the alternative of loose connections with

temporary mistresses.

"The life-long union," says he, "of one man and of one woman

should be the normal or dominant type of intercourse between

the sexes." "But it by no means follows, that, because it

should be the dominant type, it should be the only one, or

that the interests of society demand that all connections

should be forced into the same die. Connections which are

confessedly only for a few years have always subsisted side

by side with permanent marriages; and in periods when public

opinion, acquiescing in their propriety, inflicts no

excommunication on one or both of the partners when these

partners are not living the demoralizing and degrading life

which accompanies the consciousness of guilt, and when proper

provision is made for the children who are born, it would be,

I believe, impossible to prove, by the light of simple and

unassisted reason, that such connections should be invariably

condemned. It is extremely important, both for the happiness

and for the moral well-being of men, that life-long unions

should not be effected simply under the prompting of a blind

Page 251

appetite. There are always multitudes, who, in the period of

their lives when their passions are most strong, are

incapable of supporting children in their own social rank,

and who would therefore injure society by marry-ing in it,

but are, nevertheless, perfectly capable of securing an

honorable career for their illegitimate children in the lower

social sphere to which they would naturally belong. Under

the conditions I have mentioned, these connections are not

injurious, but beneficial, to the weaker partner; they soften

the differences of rank, they stimulate social habits, and

they do not produce upon character the degrading effect of

promiscuous inter-course, or upon society the injurious

effects of imprudent marriages, one or the other of which

will multiply in their absence. In the immense variety of

circumstances and characters, cases will always appear in

which, on utilitarian grounds, they might seem advisable."

Thus, at last, this fashionable vice has lifted the masks of

hypocrisy a little, and found a voice, and spoken for

itself. And I have given ample space and full expression to

these arguments for monogamy, of which this form of

prostitution, or some worse one, is a necessary part,

requesting my opponents to reciprocate this favor of placing

their arguments side by side with mine, and entreating the

Public to judge between them, and, before awarding judgement,

to be sure to hear the other

Page 252

side. If there is any truth in the Holy Bible, it teaches

the innocence of polygamy, and the sinfulness of every form

of sexual indulgence not guard-ed by a life-long marriage. If

there is any truth in history, it teaches the innate impurity

of enforced monogamy, - an impurity which has always

increased with the increase of wealth and the advance of

civilization; which perverted Christianity itself is

powerless to prevent; which has corrupted and wasted many

nations; and into which we are drifting with inevitable

certainty, and from which nothing but an extension of the

benefits and the safeguards of marriage can ever deliver us,

- all which propositions are demonstrated in "The History and

Philosophy of Marriage."

I beg leave to refer, also, to a recent work entitled "An

Historical Sketch of Sacerdotal Celibacy in the Christian

Church. By H.C. Lea." Philadelphia: J.B. Lippincott & Co.,


This is a valuable repertory of authentic recorded facts

cited from

"Many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore,"

confirming the views advanced in "The History and

Page 253

and Philosophy of Marriage" in respect of the degrading

influences of the Roman system of restricted marriage, from

which I have proved our European monogamy to have been

derived. I earnestly commend this book to the attention of

every student of moral philosophy, and to that of every

Christian philanthropist.

Conybeare and Howson's "Life and Epistles of St. Paul"

contains the following note on 1 Tim. iii. 2, concerning the

"one wife" of a bishop, which I place alongside of Dr.

McKnight's (page 72). It also contains my own statements in

the chapter on the origin of monogamy.

"In the corrupt facility of divorce allowed both by the

Greek and Roman law, it was very common for man and wife to

separate, and marry other parties, during the life of one

another. Thus a man might have three or four living wives;

or rather women who had all successively been his wives.

. . . A similar code is [now] unhappily to be found in

Mauritius; there . . . it is not uncommon to meet in society

three or four women who have all been the wives of the same

man. . . . We believe it is this kind of successive

polygamy, rather than simultaneous polygamy, which is here

spoken of as disqualifying for the Presbyterate. So Beza."


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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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