But before leaving the subject it is befitting, I think, to glance, if for only a moment, at the present status of marriage in modern society. Possibly some may think I have devoted too much space to its savage and semi-savage aspects; but if I have, it is because the sources of such information are not so readily accessible to the general reader as are those of modern marriage; and because there can be no adequate knowledge of any human institution which does not take cognizance of the circumstances and conditions from which it was originally evolved.
If history teaches us that as civilization progresses affection, charity, and human sympathy become more refined, purer, and deeper, it has also shown, if we have studied it to any purpose, that sexual anarchy and immorality have proven the almost invariable sequels of every advance of society. Is the civilization of today different from that of the Pharaohs, or of Louis XIV, or of Aristides? And if so, if it have deeper insight, higher ideals, purer ethics, or more common sense, in what way shall these be likely to affect the position of woman, or the restraints put upon the lawlessness of sexual passion?
The conflict between duty and desire is, I believe, not stronger today than it was two thousand years ago. Petronius Arbiter was not converted by Marcus Aurelius; and the "Man of Sorrows" could only forgive the adulteress.1 Marriage represents a Divine purpose. So does Religion; but there is no sharper struggle between religion and sin than exists today between purity and sexual passion; and the unnatural sexual condition of society is largely accountable for the fact.
The primitive belief that rapid increase of population is good for a State; that marriage, having a definite purpose, is of divine ordination, and necessary to perfect human happiness, has been replaced by the directly opposite doctrine that the highest interests of society are subserved not by stimulating, but restraining marriage, and diminishing by every possible means the number of children.2 In consequence of this most pernicious and unnatural teaching, a greater and greater number of women, every year, are left to shift for themselves in life, with no male protector, and with the dangers and difficulties incident to their sex terribly aggravated by the very custom which has made them spinsters.
A great economic revolution, in the employment of machinery to perform these tasks of female industry which were once done within the home, has thrown multitudes of girls and women into factories, from which the paths of vice and temptation lead out in every direction. The consequences of this deplorable condition of affairs are already engaging the attention of the moralist and the philanthropist; but it is apparent, to my mind at least, that no permanent change for the better can be effected until men discard the factitious selfishness of a too utilitarian civilization, marry, as their fathers married, and learn to recognize the fact that in society, as well as in the soul, God has erected certain moral landmarks which can never be safely removed; and that marriage, and the reproductive processes of nature, are as much parts of the divine purpose as the law of growth, the properties of matter, or the operations of the human mind.
1 John viii, ii.
1 " How long," asks the editor of American Medicine, an up-to-date professional journal, presumably representing a considerable segment of professional opinion in the United States, "how long will society permit men to bring babies into the world, to be thrust into the streets as soon as they can toddle and become parasites on the social organism? Our answer is: So long as we shall be prevented from popularizing the knowledge of the prevention of conception. . . . Teach the public how to prevent conception, and even the lowest classes will take advantage of this knowledge; and the number of ragamuffins, illiterates, imbeciles, syphilitica, paupers and criminals will be reduced to a minimum"! Quoted by the Critic and Guide, New York, March, 1906.