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dle Ages. In the East it had prejudices to combat, which had existed from time immemorial, and were not distinguished from the institutions of nature. In Greece there was less of the oriental despotism, though there women were always secluded, and led a life of inferiority and subjection. In Italy, women enjoyed a happier lot. That practical people early perceived the loss of moral power which a community suffers, that condemns one half the species to ignorance and degradation. Their wiser indulgence was amply repaid in the succession of able statesmen and warriors their nation had produced, whose characters were mainly formed by the influence of gifted and educated women belonging to the most distinguished families.
The northern nations carried these ideas still further. With them reverence for woman became a superstition, and it was supposed that she enjoyed miraculous communications of prudence in affairs and knowledge of futurity. When Christianity came among them with its doctrine of the spiritual equality of woman, these barbarians received it as confirmation of their previous veneration for the weaker sex. Hence the romantic extravagances of the institution of chivalry. The absurdities of that system were the result of a good thing carried to excess.
As the mists of ignorance cleared away in the returning civilization of modern times, those extravagances disappeared, and left the sentiment of reverence for woman without its abuse. And this sentiment, at the present hour, may be justly regarded as the main cause of the political and moral preponderance of European nations and their descendants in the affairs of the world.
In the United States, this sentiment of reverence for woman has been made more practical and universal than in Europe itself. No where, by the confession of all observers, is she treated with so much respect. No where has she so much freedom, and no where has she shown so little disposition to abuse it. She has only then to preserve what she has obtained. The best way for her to do this is, to ask for no more,, to understand her sphere, and be contented to move in it in quietness and peace.
If she have the wisdom to do this, she will not listen to some of her sex, who, with much eloquence and plausibility, are endeavoring to persuade her to assert her claim to the right of suffrage, the tenure of political office, and the exercise of the professions, of speaking in public assemblies, and mingling in all the strife of partisan struggles and philanthropic enterprises. If there be not in a woman enough of that instinctive delicacy, which is with her a species of inspiration, to prevent her from mingling in such scenes, there certainly ought to be enough to make her shrink back from its practical results, the public exhibition of those passions and emotions which are sure to unsex and degrade her. The secluded life which is marked out for woman by her constitution and peculiar duties, precludes her from the possibility of acquiring that breadth of information and practical knowledge of the working of civil institutions, which are necessary to a just judgment of public measures. Were every question to be decided by moral feeling, political affairs would be safer in the hands of the women than of the rougher sex. But the difficulty is, they feel too much and too acutely. They want measure and moderation, even in that which is good, and are liable to overlook the long distance which must ever intervene between the desirable and the possible. Though denied in all countries the right of direct interference in political affairs, there is a sphere of indirect influence left open to woman, which ought to satisfy the most aspiring ambition, in her continual access to those who do govern, and her control over the opinions of each rising generation. Her real influence will be in proportion to the extent of her knowledge, and the degree of her mental culture.
There is a class of writers, against whom I feel it my duty, in this connexion, to put my countrywomen especially on their guard, those, I mean, who would plead the rights of woman against the rigors of the marriage tie. There are those, and among them females of no little talent and celebrity, who are endeavoring to make out the case, that the contract which binds husband and wife, the nearer it approaches indissolubility the more oppressive it becomes to the weaker sex. More liberty, it is claimed, ought to be allowed both parties to terminate a connexion which is found to be unsuitable, uncongenial or unharmonious.
Those who cannot love each other ought to be separated. Some go so far as to say, that without mutual affection, the contract itself is null and void. It is in fact the tendency of a large class of writings of the present day to undermine the sacredness of marriage. Our country is flooded with books which teach the most shocking and demoralizing doctrines upon this subject.
If it were not attaching too much importance to writings which are so plainly profligate and detestable, I should be tempted to attribute to this cause the alarming increase which has taken place in this country in the number of divorces within a few years. In some of the states they are said to have increased, within half a century, sixteen hundred per cent. This has ever been considered as one of the most certain indications of the depraved condition of public morals. Such a thing as a divorce was not known in Rome for many centuries, and when they did commence, and especially when they became frequent, everything verged rapidly to ruin. Husbands repudiated their wives, and wives divorced their husbands, with scarcely any restraint, till one of their satirists relates a case in which a woman changed her husband five times in eight years.
It is a remarkable and a significant fact, that