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LOVE, MARRIAGE, AND DIVORCE,
THE SOVEREIGNTY OF THE INDIVIDUAL.
HENRY JAMES, HORACE GREELEY,
STEPHEN PEARL ANDREWS.
INCLUDING THE FINAL REPLIES OF MR. ANDREWS, REJECTED BY THE NEW
TWENTY YEARS LATER, BETWEEN MR. JAMES
BENJ. R. TUCKER, PUBLISHER.
LOVE, MARRIAGE, AND DIVORCE,
AND THE SOVEREIGNTY OF THE INDIVIDUAL.
The columns of the New York “Tribune” have been abruptly, though not altogether unexpectedly, closed to me, in the midst of a discussion upon the subjects named in the title-page to this pamphlet, which had been courted and invited by Mr. Horace Greeley, the responsible editor of that influential journal. After detaining my replies to himself and to Mr. James from four to eight weeks, Mr. Greeley at length returns them to me, accompanied by a private note, approving my criticisms upon Mr. James, but assigning reasons for the declination of both of my communications.
The ostensible grounds for excluding my comments upon positions assumed and arguments in support of these positions are, first, that my replies "do not get the discussion one inch ahead." I obviously could not put the discussion ahead by stating and developing new positions, until I had answered those assumed by my opponent. Whether the real reason for "burking" my rejoinder was that I did not do the last well enough, or that I did it rather too effectively and conclusively for my continued popularity at the "Tribune" office, so many readers as I shall now be able to reach, with some little industry on my part, will have the opportun ity to decide. Second, that expressions are employed by me which are offensive to the public sense of decency, and especially that the medical illustration of my lady correspondent is unfit for publication. I propose now to publish the rejected replies as written, that the world may judge whether anything I have said or embodied in them is of a nature which might reasonably be supposed likely "to dash the modesty" of Mr. Greeley or the habitual readers of the "Tribune."
The defenders of slavery, and the fastidious aristocratic classes everywhere, make a similar objection to that here urged, to displaying the unsightly accompaniments of the systems they uphold. Much, however, as I dislike to have my feelings or my tastes offended, I cannot help regarding the actual flogging of women, for example, in Austria, and the salt and pepper applications to the torn backs of negroes in the South, as not only in themselves worse than the pen and ink descriptions of the same transactions, but as fully justifying the latter, and actually demanding them, as a means of shaming the facts out of existence. So of the disgusting and intolerable
features of any oppressive social institution. It is true that scenes of abhorrent and enforced debauchery, although covered by the respectable garb of legality, are not pleasing subjects for contemplation; but to my mind they are still less fitting to exist at all. If the denial of the latter fact cannot in conscience be made, I have little respect for that sickly suggestion of virtue which, by turning its face to the wall, refuses to see, and hopes for the best, without so much as a protest against the enormous degradation of our common humanity. The position is one not often assumed by Mr. Greeley, and does not seem to me either natural or becoming to him.
The third objection is that he (Mr. Greeley) cannot permit his paper to be made the organ of repeatedly announcing and defending doctrines so destructive to the public well-being, and especially that he cannot tolerate the reiterated assumption that fornication, adultery, etc., are no crimes. I can hardly conceive why the first statement of a dangerous or offensive set of opinions should be innocent enough for the columns of the "Tribune," and a re-statement of the same thing for the purpose of answering the objections or misrepresentations of an opponent should be too bad for the same columns.
I can discover no reason, consistent with good faith, for prohibiting a writer who has been permitted so to commit himself to unpopular doctrines from explaining his meaning until he is entirely comprehensible to all who desire to understand him.
But if this objection were really such as weighs with the editor of the "Tribune," which I will show presently it is not, it could only be founded in misapprehension. I am as honestly and thoroughly opposed to adultery, for example, as the editor of the "Tribune" can be, except that we might differ in the definition. I charge adultery upon nine-tenths of the married couples in this city, committed not out of, but within the limits of, their marriage bonds.
Let me endeavor to make myself clear upon this point. If I were in a Catholic country, and derided or denounced the mass and the other ceremonies of the Church, I should clearly be held by the whole people to be an opposer of religion. Indeed, such a deportment might even be found described in the dictionary definition, in that country, of irreligion or atheism; and yet it is quite conceivable by us that just such a course would be, or might be, dictated by a zeal for religion beyond anything prompting the defence of the stereotyped formalities of the place. The ambiguity exists in the diversity of understanding of the word religion. The one believes the thing signified to consist in, or at least only to coexist with, certain rights and ceremonies with which it has always been associated in his mind; the other has a much higher, and, as we think, a much purer conception of the idea to which the word corresponds. The former is, nevertheless, confirmed in his impression by the outward fact that those whom he has hitherto seen least regardful of the external worship to which he is
himself addicted are the lawless and vagabond, who are fitted for every species of criminal act. He is not sufficiently developed in intellect and expansive in comprehension to discriminate and individualize, and by generalizing too early confounds me, the religious philosopher and enthusiast, with the vulgar herd of the godless and abandoned,—the man who is above him with the man who is below him, because they both differ from him, and in one feature of that difference, to his cloudy understanding, they seem to agree. In the same manner there are those who are below the restraints of the marriage institution, and those who are above their necessity; while the majority in civilized countries are as yet upon a level with the institution, and manufacture the public sentiment in conformity with that fact.
At the commencement of the Protestant Reformation three centuries ago, the world lay bound by three strong cords of superstition,—the Ecclesiastical, the Governmental, and the Matrimonial. The Church, the State, and the Family, each claimed to be of divine origin and to exist by divine right.
The claim of the Church was shaken by Luther, and from his day to ours, religion and ecclesiastical organization have been separating themselves, as ideas, wider and wider in men's minds. Washington and the American Revolution mark a similar era in political affairs, and modern Socialism foreshadows a corresponding change in the sphere of the domestic relations. Men now distinguish pretty clearly that elevation of aims and that devotion to the good and true, which they now mean by religion, from a church establishment or an organization of any sort. They distinguish, in like manner, the prosperity, the well-being, and civic order of the community from crowns, and cabinets, and parliaments, and standing armies of politicians and soldiers. In like manner, they begin to distinguish purity in the sexual union of loving souls from the sordid considerations of a marriage settlement, and even from the humane, prudential, and economical arrangements for the care of offspring.
The fallacy-exploded by the development of mind-consists in the assumption that "The Church" is essential to the existence of elevated sentiments toward God and one's fellow-beings; that the love of spiritual truths and of the social virtues is not naturally in men, growing with their growth, but that it has to be put into them and kept in them by the constant instrumentality of popes, cardinals, bishops, and priests, Councils, Inquisitions, Constitutions, and Synods; that men do not, by nature, love order and justice and harmony in their civic relations, and love it the more in prop ortion to their refinement, education, and development, and only need to know how they are to be attained, and to be relieved from hindrances and overmastering temptations adversely, to give themselves gladly to the pursuit of those virtues; but that, on the contrary, these elements likewise have to be provided and administered by magistrates and bailiffs and all the tedious machinery of government; and, finally, that men do not, naturally, love their own offspring,