« EelmineJätka »
A Memorial, written by a Magistrate, about the year 1764.
A principal magistrate of a town in France is so unfortunate as to have a wife who was debauched by a priest before her marriage, and has since brought herself to public shame; he has, however, contented himself with a private separation. This man, who is forty years old, healthy, and of a pleasing figure, has need of female society. He is too scrupulous to seek to seduce the wife of another; he even fears to contract an illicit intimacy with a maid or a widow. In this state of sorrow and perplexity, he addresses the following complaints to the Church, of which he is a member:
“ My wife is criminal; and I suffer the punishment. A female is necessary to the comfort of my life-nay, even to the preservation of my virtue; yet she is refused me by the Church, which forbids me to marry an honest woman.
The civil law of the present day, which is, unhappily, founded on the canon law, deprives me of the rights of humanity. The Church compels me to seek either pleasures which she reprobates, or shameful consolations which she condemns; she forces me to be criminal.
"If I look round among the nations of the earth, I see no religion, except the Roman Catholic, which does not recognize divorce and second marriage as a natural right. What inversion of order, then, has made it a virtue in Catholics to suffer adultery, and a duty to live without wives when their wives have thus shamefully injured them? Why is a cankered tie indissoluble, notwithstanding the great maxim adopted by the Code, Quicquid ligatur dissolubile est ? A sepàration of person and property is granted me, but not a divorce! The law takes from me my wife, and leaves me the word sacrament! I no longer enjoy matrimony, but still I am married! What contradiction! What slavery!
" Nor is it less strange that this law of the Church is directly contrary to the words which she believes to have been pronounced by Jesus Christ: “Whosoever
shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery.”
“ I have no wish here to enquire whether the pontiffs of Rome have a right to violate at pleasure the law of him whom they regard as their master; whether, when a kingdom wants an heir, it is allowable to repudiate the woman who is incapable of giving one; nor whether a turbulent wife, one attacked by lunacy, or one guilty of murder, should not be divorced as well as an adultress : I confine myself to what concerns my own sad situation. God permits me to marry again ; but the bishop of Rome forbids me!
"Divorce was customary among Catholics under all the Emperors, as well as in all the disjointed members of the Roman Empire. Almost all those kings of France who are called of the first race, repudiated their wives and took fresh ones. At length came one Gregory IX, an enemy to emperors and kings, who, by a decree, made the bonds of marriage indissoluble; and his decretal became the law of Europe. Hence, when
king wished to repudiate an adulterous wife, according to the law of Jesus Christ, he could not do so without first seeking some ridiculous pretext. Saint Louis was obliged, in order to effect his unfortunate divorce from Eleonora of Guienne, to allege a relationship which did not exist; and Henry IV., to repudiate Margaret of Valois, brought forward a still more unfounded pretence—a want of consent. Thus a lawful divorce was to be obtained only by falsehood.
“What! may a sovereign abdicate his crown, and shall he not, without the Pope's permission, abdicate his faithless wife? And is it possible that men, enlightened in other things, have so long submitted to this absurd and abject slavery!
“Let our priests and our monks abstain from women, if it must be so; they have my consent. It is detrimental to the progress of population, and a misfortune for them; but they deserve that misfortune which they have contrived for themselves. They are the victims
* Matthew, chap. xix.
of the Popes, who in them have wished to possess slaves--soldiers without family or country, living only for the Church; but I, a magistrate, who serve the state the whole day long, have occasion for a woman at night; and the Church has no right to deprive me of a possession allowed me by the Deity. The Apostles were married; Joseph was married ; and I wish to be married. If I, an Alsatian, am dependent on a priest who lives at Roine, and has the barbarous power to deprive me of a wife,-he may as well make me an eunuch to sing Miserere in his chapel.”
A Plea for Wives. Equity requires that, after giving this memorial in favour of husbands, we should also lay before the public the plea on behalf of wives, presented to the junta of Portugal, by one Countess D'Arcira. It is in substance as follows:
“The Gospel has forbidden adultery to my husband as well as to me; we shall be damned alike; nothing is more certain. Although he has been guilty of fifty infidelities,-though he has given my necklace to one of my rivals, and my ear-rings to another, I have not called
upon the judges to order his head to be shaved, himself to be shut up with monks, and his property to be given to me: yet I, for having bụt once imitated him,-for having done that with the handsomest young man in Lisbon, which he is allowed to do every day with the homeliest and most stupid creatures of the court and the city, must be placed on a stool to answer the questions of a set of licentiates, every one of whom would be at my feet were he alone with me in my closet; must have the finest hair in the world cut from
my head; be confined with nuns who have not common sense; be deprived of my portion and marriage settlement, and see my property given to my fool of a husband, to assist him in seducing other women, and committing fresh adulteries. I ask if the thing is just?-if it is not evident that the cuckolds are the law-makers?
"The answer to my complaints is, that I am but too fortunate in not being stoned at the city gate by the canons and the people, as was the custom with the first nation of the earth—the cherished nation the chosen people--the only one which was right when all others were wrong.
“ To these barbarians I reply, that when the poor woman, taken in adultery, was presented by her accusers to the Master of the Old and of the New Law, he did not order her to be stoned; on the contrary, he reproached their injustice, tracing on the sand, with his finger, the old Hebrew proverb, “ Let him who is without sin cast the first stone.' All then retired; the oldest being the first to depart, since, the greater their
age, the more adulteries they had committed.
“The doctors of the canon law tell me, that this story of the woman taken in adultery is related only in the Gospel of St. John, and that
there it is nothing more than an interpolation; that Leontius and Maldonat affirm that it is but to be found in one ancient Greek
copy; that not one of the twenty-three first commentators has spoken of it; that neither Origen, nor St. Jerome, nor St. John Chrysostom, nor Theophylact, nor Nonnus, knew any thing of it; and that it is not in the Syriac Bible, nor in the version of Ulphilas.
“ Such are the arguments advanced by my husband's advocates, who would not only shave my head, but stone me also.
“However, those who plead for me say, that Ammonius, a writer of the third century, acknowledges the truth of this story; and that St. Jerome, while he rejects it in some passages, adopts it in others; in short, that it is now authenticated. Here I hold, and say to
my husband, If you are without sin, shave my head, confine me, take my property; but if you have committed more sins than I have, it is I who must shave you, have you confined, and seize your possessions. In both cases the justice is the same.'
“My husband replies, that he is my superior and my head ; that he is taller than me by more than an inch; that he is as rough as a bear; and that, consequently, I owe him everything, and he owes me nothing.
“But, I ask if Queen Anne of England is not the head of her husband? if the Prince of Denmark, who is her High-Admiral, does not owe her an entire obedience? and if she would not have him condemned by the House of Peers, should the little man prove unfaithful? It is clear that if women have not their husbands punished, it is when they are not the strongest."*
CONCLUSION OF THE CHAPTER ON ADULTERY.
In order to obtain an equitable verdict in an action for adultery, the jury should be composed of twelve men and twelve women, with an hermaphrodite to give the casting vote in the event of necessity.
But singular cases may exist wherein raillery is inapplicable, and of which it is not for us to judge. Such is the adventure related by St. Augustin in his sermon on Christ's preaching on the Mount.
Septimius Acyndinus, proconsul of Syria, caused a Christian of Antioch, who was unable to pay to the treasury a pound of gold (the amount to which he was taxed), to be thrown into prison, and threatened with death. A wealthy man promised the unfortunate prisoner's wife to furnish her with the pound if she would consent to his desires. The wife hastened to inform her husband, who begged that she would save his life at the expense of his rights, which he was willing to give up. She obeyed; but the man who owed her the gold deceived her by giving her a sackful of earth. The husband, being still unable to pay the tax, was about to be led to the scaffold; but this infamous transaction having reached the ears of the proconsul, he paid the pound of gold from his own
* These lively statements advert rather to French than to English law and custom ; but in that given to the female, in particular, there is so much which is generally applicable, it has been thought fit to retain them.-7.