Imagens das páginas
PDF
ePub

the whole social and political order in which man is placed has grown. The duties which arise in that society are permanent; there is no period at which they are ended.

Herein the marriage relation is distinguished from all other. The relations of concubinage terminate with the indulgence of appetites, and the license of the senses; it has no design of forming a family, or perpetuating the existence of the members; it has no moral aim, nor does it tend to any moral result. Polygamous connections have aims more favorable to man and to society than promiscuous and licentious connections. They do not permit the formation of the family.

The wife is degraded, but not to the degree of a concubine. Children have a knowledge of their father, but never the fullness of paternal care and providence.

The husband and father is a lord and master, holding captive, for his gratification, a crowd of beings that he must feel to be his inferiors, and who are by him made so.

The Christian marriage, blessed in its formation, permanent in its existence, consecrated in its aims and objects, establishes relations between the members of the family that are just and equal. The wife and mother and children, under the benign principles which sustain marriage, have been gradually improving in their condition. The exorbitant powers allowed to husbands, the authority conceded to parents over children, given not, in the end, for promoting their happiness and elevating their characters, but to gratify pride or a love for dominion, have been withdrawn. The control of the parent is a trust, and it is limited to the necessities which this trust creates. The equal rights, the reciprocal duties of husband and wife, duly acknowledged, give new impulses to civilization, and a better constitution to society.

In the domestic order, the sources of all the progress of modern time may be discovered.

The laxity of idea, which was devoloped in the French revolution, has found its greatest diffusion through the legislation of the United States upon the subject of marriage and divorce.

The hereditary ideas, which centuries of use had established as true, could not be uprooted in Europe even by the violence of the revolutionary tornado. The European codes universally contain provisions for the celebration of marriage publicly, and after a previous notice, at the domicil of one of the parties, by a person legally authorized. They require the consent of parents as a condition, where the parties are minors, and a respectful request to the parents, for consent, even after the age of maturity is attained. The evidence of a fact of a marriage is carefully preserved in public registers. Measures are taken to secure families from the scandal and disgrace of clandestine or hasty union. Great Britain has removed that fountain of bitter waters—the Gretna Green marriage—from her manners, and no State in Europe furnishes a parallel to it.

The Legislation of the United States, upon the subject of marriage and divorce, amounts to an adoption of the laws of Rome, as they existed in the declining years of the republic, without any of the safeguards which their manners preserved.

The paternal power, though recognised in most of our laws, is maintained with firmness and rigor in none. The decree of the National Assembly of France, of 1792, provided that marriages formed without the consent of parents, by minors, were null. The interposition of legal authority in the celebration of the marriage is established; but, in many of our States, it is not essential to its validity. Therefore, questions have arisen in the courts as to the factum of marriages, and facilities are afforded for the hasty, ill-advised runaway marriages, which have carried misery into so many families.

There is no subject which more requires an intelligent and enlightened statesmanship than this. The separation, in the the United States, of the Church from the State, does not involve the banishment of Christianity from our civil or domestic order. Our legislation should be habitually directed under its guiding influence, and no condition opposed to it should be tolerated.

The consequence of our loose notions on this subject of marriage-notions which must ultimately lead to the most loose practices—is found in the tolerance of the plan of forming a separate State of Utah, and permitting it to become a part of this Union; and the additional fact that its beastly order is viewed without repugnance or disgust!

The laws cannot enforce all that religion commands; but the laws ought not to encourage what religion condemns. The accord of the civil laws with religious convictions, forms the strength of the State—the security of society—the perfection of laws! The separation of the civil order from its religious basis must end in the complete overthrow of one or the other, or both.

Our purpose has been to show that we have fallen behind the European States in our legislation on this subject, and that the claims of religion, morality and sound policy, demand a total change in the principles of our laws. We cannot act in the matter too soon. We cannot too soon set to work to repair these breaches in our social morals, which, suffered to increase, will, not more certainly than rapidly, incur for us all the dangers of other States which have fallen into like social looseness. It is not possible to measure, or even to conceive, the thousand dangers to a people, which flow necessarily from a deficient domestic discipline and morality. The national moral depends, in brief, upon the moral of the family, and the decay and overthrow of the one is almost always to be first indicated by the corruption of the other. When the wife ceases to be a sacred thing, whose robe even should be secure from profane touch, the whole framework of the social temple is about to fall to pieces. .

Art. IV.-EsSAY ON AMERICAN SOCIETY, AS SEEN THROUGH

SOUTHERN SPECTACLES. 1. Mrs. Trollopes Domestic Manners of the Americans. 2. Miss Martineau's Retrospect of Western Travel. 3. Miss Bremer's Homes of the New World. 4. Willis's Home Journal. Miss Leslie. Charles Astor Bris

ted. Geo. Wm. Curtis.

If we are not improving in a social point of view, it must certainly be because we “hate instruction, and our hearts despise reproof,” as much as the imaginary individual to whom Solomon addressed so mány admonitions. Mr. Charles Astor Bristed,

Ike Marvel, and Mr. Geo. Wm. Curtis have satirized us. Miss Leslie has written a Behavior-Book to improve our manners, and though last not least, the accomplished editor of the “ Home Journal” has given us occasional criticisms on the various phases of social life, as varying circumstances have called for them. Their remarks were intended more particularly for New York society, but the somewhat metropolitan authority of that city, and and the kindred resemblance in the follies of different sections of our country, give them a more general interest.

The extent of this literature not only indicates the awakened interest of the public mind in our social development, but is valuable as embodying the most interesting part of the much more that is talked of and discussed by our most intelligent people. Another even more correct and very interesting exponent of the kind of notions our people entertain on such subjects, is found in the incidental remarks of the common newspapers of the day. With a great deal of the satire, and more particularly those understood to proceed from Mr. Curtis, we have only this fault to find—they vividly and most amusingly paint faults common to human nature, and give the world to understand that they are pictures of American society. Apparently, either the exaggerated character these follies have in our case received from circumstances which we hope are purely transitional, has deceived the satirists into regarding them as American follies, or, what we think the true state of the case, there has been a most Utopian expectation formed, that we should exhibit to the world, not only a model government, but a model society-one freed from many of the faults which, under circumstances supposed to be less favorable, have heretofore characterized the social system. A feeling seems very generally to have prevailed among our people, especially among the philanthropically disposed, that somehow, in our republic, society was to be established on what the dreamers called “a more simple, natural basis," old “social tyrannies” were to be abolished, each man was to “stand upon his own merits,” the "glittering baubles” which had been raised to so false a value, were to be no longer prized, &c. All the world was to see this, fall in love with the benign influences of republican

ism_"tottering thrones"_" area of freedom”—“ manifest destiny,” &c. How republicanism could accomplish all this, unless it could banish the evil from human nature, never seems to have occurred to anybody. But, indeed, republicanism really seems to have figured in the imaginations of some people, as a scheme for man's regeneration. Probably no two words in the language have been more misunderstood than the words republican and anti-republican. Almost everything which some people dislike, or which trenches on their personal satisfaction, they are in the habit of styling anti-republican. , Many who would disavow these false notions are, nevertheless, unconsciously infected by them, and indulge in speculations really based upon them. Those who would be utterly disgusted with any talk about “manifest destiny,” entertain a more refined and possibly, therefore, more dangerous error.

The feelings which prevail with regard to what is called “ American aristocracy” illustrate our remarks. We are the more inclined to analyze the position of this so-called aristocracy because it has been peculiarly a subject for the shafts of satire, and is very generally considered most inconsistent with republicanism. “American aristocracy” is a phrase which is often uttered with contempt by the newspapers, as if it were as palpably absurd and ridiculous as to say an English Frenchman, or an ugly beauty. The common feeling with regard to it is often heard in such expressions as, “ Social distinctions are ridiculous in this country,” and “ To talk of old families,” and “an aristocracy of birth” is “anti-republican,” and “a most unbecoming aping of foreign society."

The complete disseverance of the social and political system in this country, though a fact which, when formally laid down, may even seem a common place verity, and will hardly be disputed by any, is by no means generally realized, and we think a false notion of it lies at the root of many of the Utopian expectations of which we have spoken. Political inequality in aristocratic countries has produced such great corresponding social inequality, that it is hard for our people to realize that our political equality

« AnteriorContinuar »