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With respect to one main article in matrimonial alliances, a total alteration has taken place in the fashion of the world : the wife now brings money to her husband, whereas anciently the husband paid money to the family of the wife; as was the case among the Jewish patriarchs, the Greeks, and the old inhabitants of Germany *. This alteration has proved of no small advantage to the female sex : for their importance in point of fortune procures to them, in modern times, that assiduity and respect, which are always wanted to compensate for the inferiority of their strength, but which their personal attractions would not always secure.
Our business is with marriage as it is established in this country. And in treating thereof, it will be necessary to state the terms of the marriage vow, in order to discover,
1. What duties this vow creates.
2. What situation of mind, at the time, is inconsistent with it. . .
3. By what subsequent behaviour it is violated.,
The husband promises, on his part, “to love, comfort, honour, and keep his wife;" the wife on hers, “ to obey, serve, love, honour, and keep, her - husband ;” in every variety of health, fortune, and condition: and both stipulate “to forsake all others, and to keep only unto one another, so long as they both shall live.” This promise is called the marriage vow; is witnessed before God and the congregation; accompanied with prayers to Almighty God for his blessing upon it; and attended with such circumstances of devotion and solemnity as place the obligation of it, and the guilt of violating it, nearly upon the same foundation with that of oaths.
The parties by this vow engage their personal fidelity expressly and specifically; they engage likewise
* The ancient Assyrians sold their beauties by an annual auction. The prices were applied by way of portions to the more homely. By this contrivance, all of both sorts were disposed of in marriage.
to consult and promote each other's happiness: the wife, moreover, promises obedience to her husband. Nature may have made and left the sexes of the human species nearly equal in their faculties, and perfectly so in their rights; but to guard against those competitions which equality, or a contested superiority, is almost sure to produce, the Christian Scriptures enjoin upon the wife that obedience which she here promises, and in terms so peremptory and absolute, that it seems to extend to every thing not criminal, or not entirely inconsistent with the woman's happiness. “Let the wife,” says St. Paul, “be subject to her own husband in every thing.”—“ The ornament of a meek and quiet spirit,” says the same apostle, speaking of the duty of wives, “ is, in the sight of God, of great price.” No words ever expressed the true merit of the female character so well as these.
The condition of human life will not permit us to say, that no one can conscientiously marry who does not prefer the person at the altar to all other men or women in the world; but we can have no difficulty in pronouncing (whether we respect the end of the institution, or the plain terms in which the contract is conceived), that whoever is conscious, at the time of his marriage, of such a dislike to the woman he is about to marry, or of such a subsisting attachment to some other woman, that he cannot reasonably, nor does in fact, expect ever to entertain an affection for his future wife, is guilty, when he pronounces the marriage vow, of a direct and deliberate prevarication; and that, too, aggravated by the presence of those ideas of religion, and of the Supreme Being, which the place, the ritual, and the solemnity of the occasion, cannot fail of bringing to his thoughts. The same likewise of the woman. This charge must be imputed to all who, from mercenary motives, marry the objects of their aversion and disgust; and likewise to those who desert, from any motive whatever, the object of their affection, and, without being able to subdue that affection, marry another.
The crime of falsehood is also incurred by the man who intends, at the time of his marriage, to commence, renew, or continue, a personal commerce with any other woman. And the parity of reason, if a wife be capable of so much guilt, extends to her.
The marriage vow is violated, : I. By adultery.
II. By any behaviour which, knowingly, renders the life of the other miserable; as desertion, neglect, prodigality, drunkenness, peevishness, penuriousness, jealousy, or any levity of conduct which administers occasion of jealousy.
A late regulation in the law of marriages, in this country, has made the consent of the father, if he be living, of the mother, if she survive the father, and remain unmarried, or of guardians, if both parents be dead, necessary to the marriage of a person under twenty-one years of age. By the Roman law, the consent et avi et patris was required so long as they lived. In France, the consent of parents is necessary to the marriage of sons, until they attain to thirty years of age; of daughters, until twenty-five. In Holland, for sons till twenty-five; for daughters, till twenty. And this distinction between the sexes appears to be well founded; for a woman is usually as properly qualified for the domestic and inferior duties of a wife or mother at eighteen, as a man is for the business of the world, and the more arduous care of providing for a family, at twenty-one.
The constitution also of the human species indicates the same distinction *
* Cùm vis prolem procreandi diutiùs hæreat in mare quàm in fæminâ, populi numerus nequaquam minuetur, si seriùs venerem colere inceperint viri.
OF THE DUTY OF PARENTS. That virtue which confines its beneficence within the walls of a man's own house, we have been accustomed to consider as little better than a more refined selfishness; and yet it will be confessed, that the subject and matter of this class of duties are inferior to none in utility and importance: and where, it may be asked, is virtue the most valuable, but where it does the most good? What duty is the most obligatory, but that on which the most depends? And where have we happiness and misery so much in our power, or liable to be so affected by our conduct, as in our own families ? It will also be acknowledged, that the good order and happiness of the world are better upholden whilst each man applies himself to his own concerns, and the care of his own family, to which he is present, than if every man, from an excess of mistaken generosity, should leave his own business to undertake his neighbour's, which he must always manage with less knowledge, conveniency, and success. If, therefore, the low estimation of these virtues be well founded, it must be owing, not to their inferior importance, but to some defect or impurity in the motive. And indeed it cannot be denied, that it is in the power of association so to unite our children's interest with our own, as that we shall often pursue both from the same motive, place both in the same object, and with as little sense of duty in one pursuit as in the other. Where this is the case, the judgment above stated is not far from the truth. And so often as we find a solicitous care of a man's own family, in a total absence or extreme penury of every other virtue, or interfering with other duties, or directing its operation solely to the temporal happiness of the children, placing that happiness in amusement and indulgence whilst they are young, or in advancement of fortune when they grow up, there is reason to believe that this is the case. In this way, the com·mon opinion concerning these duties may be accounted for and defended. If we look to the subject of them, we perceive them to be indispensable : If we regard the motive, we find them often not very meritorious. Wherefore, although a man seldom rises high in our esteem who has nothing to recommend him beside the care of his own family, yet we always condemn the neglect of this duty with the utmost severity ; both by reason of the manifest and immediate mischief which we see arising from this neglect, and because it argues a want not only of parental affection, but of those moral principles which ought to come in aid of that affection where it is wanting. And if, on the other hand, our praise and esteem of these duties be not proportioned to the good they produce, or to the indignation with which we resent the absence of them, it is for this reason, that virtue is the most valuable, not where it produces the most good, but where it is the most wanted : which is not the case here; because its place is often supplied by instincts, or involuntary associations. Nevertheless, the offices of a parent may be discharged from a consciousness of their obligation, as well as other duties; and a sense of this obligation is sometimes necessary to assist the stimulus of parental affection ; especially in stations of life in which the wants of a family cannot be supplied without the continual hard labour of the father, and without his refraining from many indulgences and recreations which unmarried men of like condition are able to purchase. Where the parental affection is sufficiently strong, or has fewer difficulties to surmount, a principle of duty may still be wanted to direct and regulate its exertions : for otherwise it is apt to spend and waste itself in a womanish fondness for the person of the child; an improvident attention to his present ease and gratification ; a pernicious facility and compliance with his humours; an excessive