Page:The early history of the property of married women.djvu/23

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was, in fact, explained by the coarsest motives; but the Brahmins who exhorted her to the sacrifice were undoubtedly influenced by a purely professional dislike to her enjoyment of property. The ancient rule of the civil law, which made her tenant for life, could not be got rid of, but it was combated by the modern institution which made it her duty to devote herself to a frightful death.

If the Stridhan of the Hindoos is a form of married women's separate property, which has been disliked and perverted by the professional classes who had the power to modify it, the institution which was first the dos of the Romans, and is now the dot of Continental Europe, has received a singular amount of artificial encouragement. I have endeavoured to describe to you how it originated, but I have yet to state that it entered into one of the most famous social experiments of the Roman Empire. A wellknown statute of the Emperor Augustus, celebrated by Horace in an official ode as the prince's greatest legislative achievement, had for its object the encouragement and regulation of marriage and the imposition of penalties on celibacy. Among the chief provisions of this "Lex Julia et Papia Poppœa"—to give its full title—was a clause compelling opulent parents to create portions, or dotes, for their marriageable daughters. This provision of a statute, which very deeply affected the Roman law in many ways, must have met with general approval, for at a later date we find the same principle applied to the donatio propter nuptias, or settlement on the married couple from the husband's side. In the matured Roman law, therefore, regular as it may seem to us, parents were under a statutory obligation to make settlements on their children.

It has been rather the fashion to speak of these experiments of the Roman Emperors on public morality as if they totally miscarried—I suppose, from some idea that the failure added to the credit of the moral regeneration effected by Christianity. But, as a matter of fact, the Christian Church conferred few civil benefits of greater moment to several generations of mankind than in keeping alive the traditions of the Roman legislation respecting settled property, and in strenuously exerting itself to extend and apply the principles of these disciplinary laws. There can be no serious (question that in its ultimate result, the disruption of the Roman Empire was very unfavourable to the personal and proprietary liberty of women. I purposely say, "in its ultimate result," in order to avoid a learned controversy as to their position