Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 2.djvu/580

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been validated.

which people unite for a common object, from making a pair of shoes up to governing an empire, in which the power to decide does not rest somewhere; and what is this but command and obedience? Of course the person who for the time being is in command is of all fools the greatest if he deprives himself of the advantage of advice, if he is obstinate in his own opinion, if he does not hear as well as determine; but it is also practically certain that his inclination to hear will be proportioned to the degree of importance which he has been led to attach to the function of determining.

To sum the matter up, it appears to me that all the laws and moral rules by which the relation between the sexes is regulated should proceed upon the principle that their object is to provide for the common good of two great divisions of mankind who are connected together by the closest and most durable of all bonds, and who can no more have really conflicting interests than the different members of the same body, but who are not and never can be equals in any of the different forms of strength.

This problem law and morals have solved by monogamy, indissoluble marriage on the footing of the obedience of the wife to the husband, and a division of labor with corresponding differences in the matters of conduct, manners, and dress. Substantially this solution appears to me to be right and true; but I freely admit that in many particulars the stronger party has in this, as in other cases, abused his strength, and made rules for his supposed advantage, which, in fact, are greatly to the injury of both parties. It is, needless to say any thing in detail of the stupid coarseness of the laws about the effects of marriage on property—laws which might easily be replaced by a general statutory marriage settlement analogous to those which every prudent person makes who has any thing to settle. As to acts of violence against women, by all means make the law on this head as severe as it can be made without defeating itself.

As to throwing open to women the one or two employments from which they are at present excluded, it is rather a matter of sentiment than of practical importance. I need not revive in this place a trite discussion. My object at present is simply to establish the general proposition that men and women are not equals, and that the laws which affect their relations ought to recognize that fact.

In my next letter I shall examine the opinion that laws which recognize any sort of inequality between human beings are mere vestiges of the past, against which as such there lies the strongest of all presumptions.—I am, sir, your obedient servant,