Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 2.djvu/579

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ON THE EQUALITY OF THE SEXES.

of it must either be by law or by a dissolution of the partnership at the will of the contracting parties.

4. Law could give no remedy in such a case. Therefore the only remedy for breach of the contract would be dissolution of the marriage.

5. Therefore, if marriage is to be permanent, the government of the family must be put by law and by moral rules in the hands of the husband, for no one proposes to give it to the wife.

Mr. Mill is totally unable to meet this argument, and apparently embraces the alternative that marriage ought to be dissoluble at the pleasure of the parties. After much argument as to contracts which appear to be visionary, his words are these: "Things never come to an issue of downright power on one side and obedience on the other except where the connection has been altogether a mistake, and it would be a blessing to both parties to be relieved from it."

This appears to me to show a complete misapprehension of the nature of family government, and of the sort of cases in which the question of obedience and authority can arise between husband and wife. No one contends that a man ought to have power to order his wife about like a slave, and beat her if she disobeys him. Such conduct in the eye of the law would be cruelty, and ground for a separation. The question of obedience arises in quite another way. It may, and no doubt often does, arise between the very best and most affectionate married people, and it need no more interfere with their mutual affection than the absolute power of the captain of a ship need interfere with perfect friendship and confidence between himself and his first-lieutenant. Take the following set of questions: "Shall we live on this scale or that? Shall we associate with such and such persons? Shall I, the husband, embark in such an undertaking, and shall we change our place of residence in order that I may do so? Shall we send our son to college? Shall we send our daughters to school or have a governess? For what profession shall we train our sons?" On these and a thousand other such questions the wisest and the most affectionate people might arrive at opposite conclusions. What is to be done in such a case? for something must be done. I say the wife ought to give way. She ought to obey her husband, and carry out the view at which he deliberately arrives, just as, when the captain gives the word to cut away the masts, the lieutenant carries out his orders at once, though he may be a better seaman and may disapprove them. I also say that, to regard this as a humiliation, as a wrong, or as an evil in itself, is a mark not of spirit and courage, but of a base, unworthy, mutinous disposition—a disposition utterly subversive of all that is most worth having in life. The tacit assumption involved in it is that it is a degradation ever to give up one's own will to the will of another, and to me this appears the root of all evil, the negation of that which renders any combined efforts possible. No case can be specified in